Existing cognitive health literature focuses on the perspectives of older adults with dementia. However, little is known about the ways in which healthy older adults without dementia understand their cognitive health. In rural communities, early dementia diagnosis may be impeded by numerous factors including transportation challenges, cultural obstacles, and inadequate access to health and support services.
Based on participant observation and two waves of 42 semi-structured interviews, this study examined healthy, rural older adults’ perceptions of cognitive health. By providing an innovative theoretical foundation informed by local perspectives and culture, findings reveal a complex and multidimensional view of cognitive health. Rural older adults described four key areas of cognitive health ranging from independence to social interaction. As policy makers, community leaders, and researchers work to address the cognitive health needs of the rural aging demographic, it is essential that they listen to the perspectives of rural older adults.