[Journal:] Zeitschrift für ArbeitsmarktForschung – Journal for Labour Market Research [ISSN:] 2510-5027 [Volume:] 44 [Year:] 2011 [Issue:] 4 [Pages:] 307-320
Aging is accompanied by changes in sensory, motor and cognitive functions. Particularly, a high status of so-called fluid cognitive functions is crucial for the employability at an older age. This status, which can be assessed by psychometric and neuroimaging methods, depends on a number of factors like physical constitution, nutrition, education and work demands. This paper systematically analyses factors affecting cognitive functions in aging and reviews current neuroscientific findings regarding training induced neuronal plasticity and compensation of cognitive declines in aging. In the second part the relationship between cognitive functions and the type of work will be discussed and the project PFIFF presented as an example for transfer of neuroscientific basic research to an applied context that aimed at ameliorating and evaluating age- and job-related cognitive deficits. The results of the first project period showed that cognitive decline, as revealed in behavior and brain wave data, may be accelerated by long-lasting unchallenging work and, hence, may occur already in middle age. In the second part of PFIFF a 3-month program consisting of a supervised cognitive training was implemented in a group of 120 assembly-line employees. Before and after the training a comprehensive battery of psychometric and EEG-based tests was administered. The results provide evidence that training in older employees with repetitive work improves impaired cognitive abilities and brain processes found in the first part of the project. These beneficial effects are apparently mediated by preserved brain plasticity in middle-aged and older individuals. This training approach appears to be suitable in order to improve mental fitness of elderly employees. The PFIFF project can be seen as a part of a comprehensive program for promoting mental fitness in older employees.