Memory fitness programs boost verbal memory, perception of memory, study finds

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Memory fitness programs at senior living communities helped improve seniors' verbal learning and retention, plus boosted their self-perceived memory, a new study finds.

Learning new information quickly and being able to retrieve it when needed is a skill that declines with age, but researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles say that memory fitness programs combined with lifestyle changes can enhance learning and memory.

The UCLA investigators enrolled 115 seniors at a continuing care retirement community in a six-week, 12-session program focused on memory enhancement. The average age of the participants was 81. All had complained of memory problems, but were not diagnosed with dementia. Half of the group participated in the classes while the other half was placed on a waiting list, functioning as the control group. The group that received the memory enhancement training also was instructed on healthy lifestyle modifications that promote brain health.

Study subjects who attended the memory improvement classes showed a marked improvement in verbal memory, according to assessments conducted before and after the sessions were completed. They also displayed improvements in how they perceived their memory, compared to the control group. The study was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.