A new study of University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) has found that a memory fitness program offered to older adults in their senior living communities helped improve their ability to recognise and recall words, benefitting their verbal learning and retention.
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.
The new study 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 Karen Miller 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, Gary Small, UCLA's Professor on Aging.
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.
"Lifestyle and environmental factors may play a role in cognitive decline, so our program included education about healthy living in addition to memory-training techniques," said Small.
The study involved 115 seniors at two full-service retirement communities in Maryland that are part of Erickson Living, a leading continuing-care community developer and manager. Participants lived in the "independent" level of care in these communities and had memory complaints, but they had not been diagnosed with dementia and were not taking any medications for memory loss.
Half the participants were enrolled in the memory fitness program and received memory testing before beginning the program and after completion to assess improvement. The other half were placed on a waiting list for the program and acted as study controls.
The one-hour education sessions focused on memory enhancement. They included explanations of how memory works; offered quick strategies for remembering names, faces and numbers; and provided basic memory tools such as linking ideas and creating visual images. Trainers also discussed the role of a healthy lifestyle in protecting and maintaining memory.
REHACARE.de; Source: University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) Health Sciences
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