Managing Memory in Older Age

In our ageing society, capacity to live independently is important for sustaining health and quality of life into older age. Many older people experience troublesome age-related changes in memory and seek guidance about how best to manage everyday challenges. It is estimated that up to 20% in older age community samples will display mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor for later development of Alzheimer's disease. This highlights the need for interventions for age-related memory difficulties, especially as cognitive activity is identified as a protective factor in maintaining cognitive health into older age.

Memory training (or brain training) for older adults through practice on memory tasks (typically computer-based) has produced compelling results. However, the approach remains highly contentious, with critics citing lack of generalization to everyday functioning. This is important as the goal is to reduce memory difficulties in daily activities rather than on memory tests.

The researchers' recent NHMRC-funded randomized trial has successfully evaluated a memory program for older adults. The LaTCH (La Trobe – Caulfield Hospital) Memory Group Program is a six-week intervention, focusing on knowledge about memory strategies and how to effectively use such strategies. The researchers found: (i) improved knowledge and use of strategies; (ii) achievement of personal everyday memory goals; and, (iii) greater contentment and self-efficacy about memory. Effects for people with mild cognitive impairment were moderate but still positive.

We are continuing to develop our research in this area, including translating the research into practice by training staff at Alzheimer's Australia VIC and Western Health Service to deliver the program.  We are also moving into developing the program to be accessible to communities in regional and remote areas.

Researchers

Further information

For more information about this research project please contact Professor Glynda Kinsella.