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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But research shows that you can do a lot to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease through your daily lifestyle. Small changes add up. Brain-healthy lifestyle behaviors include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Manage high blood pressure
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Limit smoking and drinking too much alcohol
  • Stay connected with others
  • Keep your mind active
  • Manage stress

Do all neighborhoods with high Cognability scores look the same?

No, neighborhoods with high Cognability scores are not all alike. For example, some neighborhoods score highly because they offer abundant health-promoting community resources including civic/social organizations, recreation centers, performing art theaters, and museums. Others score highly because there are fewer community health threats and barriers like highways and polluting sites. Different combinations of these neighborhood places and features create high Cognability scores.

I love my neighborhood, but it scores poorly for Cognability. What if Cognability doesn’t reflect my personal preferences?

Cognability measures how supportive a neighborhood is to cognitive health in later life based on years of research by our team and other scientists and organizations. Our scores rely upon commonly-reported places to exercise, connect with other people, and keep your mind active, but we know that personal preferences and activities vary widely. In the future, we hope to include even more neighborhood places and let users customize their Cognability score based upon individual preferences and activities. Stay tuned!

How do you measure neighborhoods?

Neighborhoods are a tricky concept because we each have our own unique idea of what constitutes “my neighborhood”. For some it is a large geographic area covering many streets and blocks, while for others it may be a single block or street. Some of us do not even have a “neighborhood” at all, such as in some rural communities.

Our analyses use census tracts to measure and display neighborhoods. These are small geographic units of about 4,000 people determined by the U.S. Census Bureau. We got our geographic data about each census tract from the National Neighborhood Data Archive. This publicly-available resource captures physical, economic, demographic, and social information about American neighborhoods and communities over time. If you want more detailed information about each neighborhood feature and data sources, check out the Cognability Scoring page.

Will you update the Cognability map in the future?

Yes, we hope to update the Cognability scores annually. Achieving this goal depends on financial resources, research results from ongoing scientific studies, and data availability.

What does Cognability mean?

Cognability is a measure of how supportive a neighborhood is to cognitive health through places to exercise, connect with other people, and keep your mind active in later life. This includes civic/social organizations, arts and cultural sites, recreation centers, parks, libraries, and senior centers. Cognability also identifies health threats and barriers to accessing community resources, including highways and polluting sites. These are described in detail on our Cognability Scoring page.

What if I live in an area that scores lower for Cognability?

Living in a low-scoring neighborhood does not mean that you necessarily have worse cognitive health or a higher risk for dementia.

First, your neighborhood may have fewer health-promoting resources such as civic/social organizations and recreation centers, but it may have other healthful places not captured in our analyses such as community gardens, art murals, pop-up shops, and seasonal markets.

Second, some areas unexpectedly score lower given our neighborhood data, especially if they are dominated by a single use. For example, a neighborhood with one large park will score lower than a neighborhood with multiple smaller parks. University and college campuses tend to score lower because not all distinct places (e.g., campus libraries, museums, galleries, greenspaces, and recreation centers) are individually counted.

Third, you may have access to health-promoting resources nearby that fall outside of the map’s neighborhood boundaries. It’s helpful to look at adjacent neighborhoods for resources that may be relevant and accessible to you.

Fourth, while a low Cognability score suggests that a neighborhood is less supportive to cognitive health in later life, it also represents an opportunity for community members and policymakers to work on improving access to resources and amenities that support healthy aging. Every neighborhood has room to improve.

Fifth, we recognize that all of us choose different places to be physically active, socially engaged, and keep our minds active. In the future, we hope to include even more neighborhood places and let users customize their Cognability score based upon individual preferences and activities.

What is the goal of Cognability?

To help individuals and community leaders learn about their neighborhoods and assess whether they have resources and amenities to support cognitive health in later life. Stakeholders can use the Cognability map to take steps to address gaps, prioritize community changes, and improve the neighborhoods in which we live and age.

What is the value of neighborhoods with high Cognability scores?

High-Cognability neighborhoods may benefit people of all ages and abilities. They provide community resources for folks to be active, connected, and engaged. Our definition of Cognability considers whether everyone can continue to live in a vibrant and supportive neighborhood as they age.

Who can use the Cognability map?

Anyone! It is a tool for individuals and families to see what resources and amenities are available locally to support cognitive healthy lifestyle behaviors. It may be helpful if someone is looking to relocate to a new area or find different activity hubs in other neighborhoods. Cognability is also designed to help policymakers and community leaders prioritize efforts to improve the neighborhoods we live in.

Why isn’t my community scored in the Cognability map?

We developed the concept of Cognability based upon scientific research studies of aging adults living in US urban and suburban areas. Therefore, our map only lists Cognability scores for census tracts in metropolitan areas across the US (as defined by the Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes).

We know that community resources, daily activities, and lifestyle barriers look different in other areas, such as rural communities. Therefore, we’re consulting with rural experts to expand our idea of Cognability and find appropriate ways to measure it and estimate scoring for rural communities. We’re also talking to international researchers to further expand Cognability to non-US contexts. Stay tuned!

Still have questions?

Contact our team to learn more and provide feedback.