Efficacy of Group Memory Training for Older Adults

Given the importance of memory for successful aging, programs for improving memory that work for older adults are especially important. A recent article1 provides evidence for just such a program. The program involved the training of groups of 15 people with an average age of 67.8. The training involved the types of techniques discussed under the Mnemonic Techniques category in the Healthymemory Blog. The training consisted of ten sessions lasting 90 minutes each. Two sessions were conducted each week. Here is a synopsis of what was covered in each session.

Session 1 – Introduction to the course and instructor. Discussion of stereotypes and beliefs about memory. Attention exercises and homework assignment.

Session 2 – Explanation and exercises on the visualization technique. Application of the technique to daily life. Attention exercises and a homework assignment.

Session 3 – Visualization exercises. Explanation of the different tion of the types of memory and states. Attention exercises. Homework assignment.

Session 4 – Group comments on the application of the visualization technique in their daily lives. Visualization of text and visualization of things they were going to do (prospective memory). Homework assignment.

Session 5 – Explanation of the cognitive simulation concept. Perception, language and attention exercises. Homework assignment.

Session 6 – Cognitive simulation exercises. Homework assignments.

Session 7 – Explanation of the association exercises. Group discussion on the use and application of the technique. Homework assignment.

Session 8 – Association as a technique to remember names. Name recall exercises. Homework assignment.

Session 9 – Strategies to overcome everyday forgetfulness. Practical exercises for everyday forgetfulness. External cues. Homework assignments.

Session 10 – Review of memory types and stages. Review of true and false beliefs about memory. Participants’ comments on what they learned in the workshops.

Memory was assessed by both objective and subjective assessments. The objective memory test was the Rivermead Behavioural Memory Test (RBMT)2. This test evaluates associative memory (remembering first names, surnames, and faces), prospective memory (tasks to be performed)memory with both visual and verbal material, and topographical memory (getting around a room). The subjective memory test was the Memory Failures in Everyday Life (MFE) questionnaire.3 This was a subjective report by each individual with respect to the frequency of common memory errors.

These tests were administered three times: before the training course, just after the training course, and 6 months after that. For comparison purposes there were two control groups. A Placebo Group attended the same number of sessions, except that they were on health and did not involve memory training. A second control group simply took the two tests at the three different testing intervals.

On the RBMT scores between 0 and 3 indicate severe memory impairment, between 4 and 6 moderate memory impairment, 7 and 9 weak memory impairment, and between 10 and 12 normal memory. For the memory training group the average scores were 7.66, 9.93, and 10.84, for the Pre, Post, and 6 month tests, respectively. This improvement is impressive and continued to increase 6 months after completion of the course. The comparable scores were 7.40, 7.66, 8.78 for the Placebo Group, and 8.06, 7.60, and 7.30 for the Control Group.

For the MFE higher scores indicate more forgetting and lower scores less forgetting. The Pre, Post, and 6 month scores for the training group were 74.80, 56.26, and 50.75, respectively. These decreases in incidents of forgetfulness are impressive. The comparable scores were 67.46, 66.66, and 56.92 for the Placebo Group, and 61.33, 57.33, and 62.46 for the Control Group.

This is impressive evidence for the effectiveness of this group memory training. Benefits lasted and grew well after the end of the formal training.

1Postigo, J.M.L., Viadel, J.V.H., &b Trives, J.J.R. (2010) Efficacy of Group memory Training Method for Older Adults Based on Visualization Techniques: A Randomized, Controlled Trial with a Control Group. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 956-968.

2Wilson, B.A., Cockburn, J., & Baddeley, A. (1985).The Rivermead Behavioral Memory Test. Titchfield: Thames Valley Test Company.

3Sunderlan, A., Harris, J., & Gleave, J. (1984). Memory Failures in Everyday Life Following Sever Head Injury. Journal of Clinical Neurology, 6, 127-142.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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