August 31, 2011
Science Daily/University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Who hasn't forgotten someone's name, misplaced their glasses or walked into a room and not remembered why they entered? Normal age-related memory decline affects more than half of all seniors, and those over 80 are the most vulnerable.
A new UCLA study has found that a memory fitness program offered to older adults in their senior living communities helped improve their ability to recognize and recall words, benefitting their verbal learning and retention.
Published in the September issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the study also found that as a result of the program, seniors' self-perceived memory improved, an important factor in maintaining a positive outlook on life while aging. The average age of participants in the study was 81.
"It was exciting to see how much older adults participate in a memory fitness program and improve," said study author Dr. Karen Miller, an associate clinical professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "The study demonstrates that it's never too late to learn new skills to enhance one's life."
As people get older, it takes longer to learn new information and to retrieve it, including names, dates, the location of household objects, meetings, and appointments, according to the study's senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center.
The six-week, 12-session program differed from other cognitive training courses in that it offered not only memory-training techniques but also education about lifestyle factors that may impact memory ability and overall brain health. Participants learned stress-reduction exercises and were instructed about the importance of daily physical exercise and maintaining a healthy diet rich in antioxidants.
Among the older adults attending the classes, the researchers found marked improvement in verbal memory, as well as improvements in how they perceived their memory, compared with the controls.
"We found that the memory fitness program was readily accepted by residents in our senior living communities and that it directly benefited many of them," said John Parrish, Ph.D., executive director of the Erickson Foundation. "In fact, we are now offering the program in nearly all of our 16 communities across the nation."
"The study suggests that the memory fitness program may be a cost-effective means of addressing some of the memory-related concerns of healthy older adults," Parrish added.