Objectives: to examine the association of language (English vs Spanish), and commonly used measures of memory and word fluency among older adults. Design: cross-sectional. Setting: community-based settings inNew York City, including senior centres and residential complexes. Subjects: four hundred and twenty independently living adults aged 60 or older (mean 73.8 years). Methods: participants completed the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), animal naming test (ANT) and Wechsler Memory Scale III (WMS) Story A immediate and delayed subtests. Scores were examined by strata of language, age or education and for different thresholds of the MMSE. We tested the association of language and cognitive test performance using multivariable linear regression. Results: twenty-one per cent of subjects were interviewed in Spanish and 16.2% reported poor-fair English proficiency. The mean WMS scores were not statistically different between English and Spanish groups (immediate recall, 9.9 vs 9.5, P = 0.44; delayed recall, 8.0 vs 7.6, P = 0.36, respectively), whereas ANT scores did differ (16.6 vs 14.3, P < 0.0001). These associations were consistent across MMSE thresholds. The association of language and ANT score was not significant after accounting for education. Conclusions: we found little difference in performance on the Story A subtests from the WMS suggesting that this test may be used for both English- and Spanish-speaking populations. Results suggest that variations in ANT performance may be accounted for by adjusting for the level of education. These results have important implications for the generalisability of test scores among diverse older populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-675
Number of pages7
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009


  • Cognition
  • Elderly
  • Language
  • Spanish


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