A randomized clinical trial of a writing workshop intervention to improve autobiographical memory and well-being in older adults

Kate De Medeiros, Amanda Mosby, Kathryn B. Hanley, Maria Suarez Pedraza, Jason Brandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background Despite much research on methods to improve new learning and memory in old age, there is virtually no literature on the improvement of autobiographical memory (AM). The present study assessed the effectiveness of a structured autobiographical writing workshop for improving AM, mood and self-concept in older adults. Methods Fifty-one nondemented older adults (67-96 years) participated. AM was assessed with the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) and the Remote Memory Word Association Task (RMWAT). After completing baseline (BL) testing, participants were randomized to a structured autobiographical writing workshop, a reminiscence group (active control condition) or a no-treatment control group. Follow-up testing was completed at 8 and 34 weeks after BL. Results Repeated measures ANOVAs failed to reveal a group-by-time interaction for any of the autobiographical memory (AM) measures. Across groups, there was a decrease in number of mid- and late-life events reported (on the AMI), and memories tended to be less detailed (on the RMWAT) although more pleasant memories were reported with repeated testing. Mood remained unchanged; ratings of self-concept improved across all groups. Conclusions This is the first study of its kind to use a randomized group design to test an intervention for AM in older adults. In general, our specific intervention was ineffective for increasing recall from one's life story, mood or self-concept. Methodological limitations and suggestions for future investigation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-811
Number of pages9
JournalInternational journal of geriatric psychiatry
Volume26
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Keywords

  • autobiographical memory
  • elderly
  • intervention trial
  • life stories
  • reminiscence
  • writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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