• older people;
  • cognition;
  • assessment;
  • aging;
  • Newcastle 85+ Study

OBJECTIVES: To compare the acceptability and feasibility of computerized and pencil-and-paper tests of cognitive function in 85-year-old people.

DESIGN: Group comparison of participants randomly allocated to pencil-and-paper (Wechsler Adult Intelligence and Memory Scales) or computerized (Cognitive Drug Research) tests of verbal memory and attention.

SETTING: The Newcastle 85+ Pilot Study was the precursor to the Newcastle 85+ Study a United Kingdom Medical Research Council/Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council cohort study of health and aging in the oldest-old age group.

PARTICIPANTS: Eighty-one community-dwelling individuals aged 85.

MEASUREMENTS: Participant and researcher acceptability, completion rates, time taken, validity as cognitive measures, and psychometric utility.

RESULTS: Participants randomized to computerized tests were less likely to rate the cognitive function tests as difficult (odds ratio (OR)=0.16, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.07–0.39), stressful (OR=0.18, 95% CI=0.07–0.45), or unacceptable (OR=0.18, 95% CI=0.08–0.48) than those randomized to pencil-and-paper tests. Researchers were also less likely to rate participants as being distressed in the computer test group (OR=0.19, 95% CI=0.07–0.46). Pencil-and-paper tasks took participants less time to complete (mean±standard deviation 18±4 minutes vs 26±4 minutes) but had fewer participants who could complete all tasks (91% vs 100%). Both types of task were equally good measures of cognitive function.

CONCLUSION: Computerized and pencil-and-paper tests are both feasible and useful means of assessing cognitive function in the oldest-old age group. Computerized tests are more acceptable to participants and administrators.