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About the SHARP Study

Photo credit: OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

The Sharing History through Active Reminiscence and Photo-imagery study (SHARP) aims to maintain or improve cognitive health among older African Americans through increasing physical and social activity. SHARP is culturally celebratory, engaging participants in Black history building to motivate and sustain engagement.


The SHARP study started in 2015 by Dr. Raina Croff, with mentorship from Drs. Jeffrey Kaye and Linda Boise, at the NIA Layton Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Oregon Health & Science University. 

In 2014, PreSERVE Coalition for African American Memory and Brain Health and the Urban League of Portland conducted focus groups with older Black community members about barriers to healthier aging in Portland.

Participants had concerns about gentrification and its impact on their ability to healthfully age in place. Neighborhood and demographic changes left them feeling disoriented, pushed out, and invisible.


In response, SHARP was designed to dually address individual healthy aging and community priorities of preserving history. SHARP’s Black history-themed walks increase physical activity and social engagement, behaviors important for brain health as we age. Walkers’ neighborhood stories contribute to an oral history digital archive. 

SHARP engaged 40 participants from 2016 and 2017. The 2017 cohort included cognitively healthy adults and those experiencing mild cognitive impairment, as assessed by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).

SHARP is adaptable to other populations and scalable to other cities. 


Recorded conversations from participant walks contribute to an oral history archive and inform community learning sessions about healthier aging and dementia.


In walks and learning sessions, the SHARP approach draws upon our collective strengths to engage older African Americans in learning and doing brain-healthy behaviors.

 Image source:: City of Portland Archives 

As African Americans age and witness community changes and historically significant events, their lived experiences interweave with the fabric of everyday Black history. Black history – lived and learned – may be a powerful tool for engaging African Americans in brain health programming.


Photo credits: OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

 Image source:: Oregon Historical Society  

Our aims are to maintain or improve cognitive health through physical activity and social engagement in a culturally celebratory way that simultaneously captures the oral history of Portland’s historically Black neighborhoods.

SHARP also provides research experience for Black/African American scholars in healthy aging research.

SHARP engaged 40 older adults in 2016 and 2017. In 2017, participants included cognitively healthy adults and those experiencing mild cognitive impairment. Our retention rates were high: 68% and 90% for 2016 and 2017, respectively. 
SHARP effectively increases:
  • Physical activity

  • Social engagement

  • Motivation to sustain engagement 

Cognitive health-related outcomes (2017 data):
  • Maintained/improved cognitive functioning (67% overall; 50% improved) 

  • Decreased blood pressure (78%)

  • Decreased weight (44%)

  • Improved mood (100%)

Photo credit: OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Participants attributed their sustained engagement in SHARP to our culturally celebratory approach to cognitive health, our commitment to minority mentorship, and to SHARP’s community deliverable—an oral history digital archive.


of participants saw a decrease in their blood pressure reading


of participants rated their mood as better than when they began the program


of participants had improved MoCA scores after being in the program


of participants were “extremely likely” to recommend SHARP to friends & family

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