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Talking to Someone Can Improve Memory for Older Adults

Update Date: May 07, 2014 01:36 PM EDT

When people age, their physical and mental health start to decline. In order to slow down the decline, older adults are recommended to maintain an active lifestyle that includes mental stimulation. In a new study, researchers identified another way older adults can retain detailed information better. The team from the University of Florida reported that if older adults need to remember a piece of written information, they should talk to others about it rather than attempting to remember the information just by reading it.

"Older adults can rely on things they've learned in the past and they can build on that vast wealth of semantic information that they've collected over the years. That works as long as the information is familiar, but where it breaks down is when they have to read something that is unfamiliar and has a lot of details," said lead investigator Yvonne Rogalski, who conducted the research as part of her doctoral dissertation work at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions reported by Medical Xpress.

In order to find a way to help seniors remember new information, the researchers created a system called RASR, which stands for Read Attentively, Summarize and Review. They recruited 44 healthy adults between the aged of 60 and 75. The adults were divided into two groups and read about an unusual but real animal. One group used the RASR method, which required them to read the entire passage out loud, reread it out loud while summarizing the content after each paragraph, and then reread the entire text aloud once more. The other group reread the passage without summarizing. Both groups were tested immediately after the reading/study session and then 24 hours later.

The adults in the RASR group were better able to recall details from the passage during both time points in comparison to the people from the other group. The researchers believe that using this method could help improve older people's memories. It is a cost-effective method that is not hard to implement.

"We think it is effective because by reading the information and then putting it into your own words you have to do quite a bit of processing of not only the information, but also the relationships among bits of information," said one of the study's authors, Lori Altmann, an associate professor in the UF department of speech, language, and hearing sciences. "Picking out the relationships that are important to you as you see them can help to order the information in your own memory."

The study was published in the journal, Aphasiology.

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