Memory Gains (not Losses) in New Study–average age 84: Help for Aging Parents, Grandparents and Eventually Us

“Oops! I’ve forgotten that name–I know it as well as my own.”
“My memory’s not what it used to be.”
“How could I have forgotten?!”

Sound familiar? At a certain age, we begin to hear–if not utter–those phrases. While we don’t think too much about it initially, it does become troublesome and worrisome after a period of time. The rising numbers of bridge players, Sudoku players, crossword puzzle converts, etc. no doubt hope exercising the brain will stave off memory problems or improve their current memory levels.

Heartening research: News comes from a small study–indeed one of the first–to assess the effects a computerized-memory training program has on memory. Published in UCLA’s U Magazine, courtesy UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine, the article is short so it’s reposted below. (Click link to check out the magazine’s entire Summer 2013 issue + back issues.) People with an average age of 84 were in the control groups, so the potential for helping parents and grandparents improve their memory and thus age well seems to be at—

 The Cutting Edge (U Magazine’s Column’s title)

Fitness Training for the Brain

Fitness Training for the BrainUCLA researchers found that older adults who regularly used a brain-fitness program played on a computer demonstrated significantly improved memory and language skills. The team studied 59 participants with an average age of 84, recruited from local retirement communities in Southern California.

The volunteers were split into two groups. The first group used a brain-fitness program for an average of 73.5 20-minute sessions across a six-month period, while a second group played it less than 45 times during the same period. Researchers found that the first group demonstrated significantly higher improvement in memory and language skills, compared to the second group.

Age-related memory decline affects approximately 40 percent of older adults and is characterized by self-perception of memory loss and decline in memory performance. The study’s findings add to the field, exploring whether or not such brain-fitness tools may help improve language and memory and may ultimately help protect individuals from the cognitive decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Previous studies have shown that engaging in mental activities can help improve memory, but little research has been done to determine if the numerous brain-fitness games and memory-training programs on the market are effective. This study is one of the first to assess the cognitive effects of a computerized memory-training program.

Is it a good guess that computerized memory training software will be available as soon as some entrepreneurial people can produce it? The challenge will be to do the research to make certain the software comes from a reputable/reliable source. In addition, the probability of better memory should be the key to converting non-computer-using elders to computer users. And won’t that be a win-win as we continue our efforts to help aging parents and other older people in our lives.