The memory fitness program: Cognitive effects of a healthy aging intervention

Karen J. Miller, Prabha Siddarth, Jean M. Gaines, John M. Parrish, Linda M. Ercoli, Katherine Marx, Judah Ronch, Barbara Pilgram, Kasey Burke, Nancy Barczak, Bridget Babcock, Gary W. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context: Age-related memory decline affects a large proportion of older adults. Cognitive training, physical exercise, and other lifestyle habits may help to minimize self-perception of memory loss and a decline in objective memory performance. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a 6-week educational program on memory training, physical activity, stress reduction, and healthy diet led to improved memory performance in older adults. Design: A convenience sample of 115 participants (mean age: 80.9 [SD: 6.0 years]) was recruited from two continuing care retirement communities. The intervention consisted of 60-minute classes held twice weekly with 15-20 participants per class. Testing of both objective and subjective cognitive performance occurred at baseline, preintervention, and postintervention. Objective cognitive measures evaluated changes in five domains: immediate verbal memory, delayed verbal memory, retention of verbal information, memory recognition, and verbal fluency. A standardized metamemory instrument assessed four domains of memory self-awareness: frequency and severity of forgetting, retrospective functioning, and mnemonics use. Results: The intervention program resulted in significant improvements on objective measures of memory, including recognition of word pairs (t[114] = 3.62, p <0.001) and retention of verbal information from list learning (t[114] = 2.98, p <0.01). No improvement was found for verbal fluency. Regarding subjective memory measures, the retrospective functioning score increased significantly following the intervention (t[114] = 4.54, p <0.0001), indicating perception of a better memory. Conclusions: These findings indicate that a 6-week healthy lifestyle program can improve both encoding and recalling of new verbal information, as well as self-perception of memory ability in older adults residing in continuing care retirement communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-523
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Volume20
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Community setting
  • healthy lifestyle
  • memory training
  • older adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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