The theoretical construct of cognitive reserve is used to explain why some people can sustain more brain pathology due to disease than others before cognitive and everyday functioning become impaired. Several lines of research suggest that cognition may be maintained by taking steps to prevent loss or possibly increase cognitive reserve. These steps could include promoting certain health behaviors, engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, or possibly even using cognitive training techniques. These factors may positively influence the physiological functioning of the brain or may increase the ability to compensate for declines in cognition. Empirical findings related to neuroplasticity are discussed and a hypothetical model of neuroplasticity, cognitive reserve, and cognitive functioning in older adults are presented. Implications of this model for 'real world' or everyday functioning are discussed and directions for future research on maintaining cognitive reserve are provided. © 2006 The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.