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Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;20(6):514-23. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e318227f821.

The memory fitness program: cognitive effects of a healthy aging intervention.

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  • 1Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, Memory and Aging Research Center, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



Age-related memory decline affects a large proportion of older adults. Cognitive training, physical exercise, and other lifestyle habits may help to minimize self-perception of memory loss and a decline in objective memory performance.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether a 6-week educational program on memory training, physical activity, stress reduction, and healthy diet led to improved memory performance in older adults.


A convenience sample of 115 participants (mean age: 80.9 [SD: 6.0 years]) was recruited from two continuing care retirement communities. The intervention consisted of 60-minute classes held twice weekly with 15-20 participants per class. Testing of both objective and subjective cognitive performance occurred at baseline, preintervention, and postintervention. Objective cognitive measures evaluated changes in five domains: immediate verbal memory, delayed verbal memory, retention of verbal information, memory recognition, and verbal fluency. A standardized metamemory instrument assessed four domains of memory self-awareness: frequency and severity of forgetting, retrospective functioning, and mnemonics use.


The intervention program resulted in significant improvements on objective measures of memory, including recognition of word pairs (t([114]) = 3.62, p <0.001) and retention of verbal information from list learning (t([114]) = 2.98, p <0.01). No improvement was found for verbal fluency. Regarding subjective memory measures, the retrospective functioning score increased significantly following the intervention (t([114]) = 4.54, p <0.0001), indicating perception of a better memory.


These findings indicate that a 6-week healthy lifestyle program can improve both encoding and recalling of new verbal information, as well as self-perception of memory ability in older adults residing in continuing care retirement communities.

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