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Bob De Schutter
HMRS PhD Student Shirley Qian, SLP MS Student, Anna Schwartz, PhD
Maintaining one’s cognitive health span is an essential component of successful aging. Aerobic physical activity (PA), cognitive training (CT) and foreign language learning (FLL) are all lifestyle interventions that have demonstrated efficacy in improving functional cognitive performance in older adults. On its own, PA can instigate learning via brain plasticity. A combination of PA and some type of CT may confer greater cognitive performance benefits; however, very little human research has focused on the relative merits of the combination versus either training alone. Furthermore, nearly all research on PA and CT has been lab-based. There is a dramatic lack of evidence for the effectiveness of community-based PA or CT in older adults, limiting the availability of protocols for improving functional cognitive performance in the real world. FLL demands multiple cognitive processes to acquire appropriate grammatical frameworks and vocabulary, which makes FLL a powerful type of CT. Although ample evidence exists for successful FLL in older adults, to our knowledge best practices in FLL have not been paired with PA. Also, although the public is generally aware of the health benefits of PA, CT, and FLL, uptake in older adults remains low. We have designed and developed an immersive game to increase community engagement with PA that is augmented with FLL-CT. Participants are encouraged to keep their heart rate up while hearing English and Spanish narration during virtual bike tour. A “bike buddy” speaks only in Spanish and encourages the participant to repeat what is said to strengthen the learning experience.