New hope for reducing memory loss as we age

  • Date

    Fri 7 Feb 20

Vanessa Loaiza

Memory loss as we get older may not be as inevitable as we think and there may be things we can do to mitigate any decline, according to new research.

Memory expert Dr Vanessa Loaiza, from the University of Essex has found that contrary to popular belief, it is not all downhill as we age – in fact in some circumstances older people can remember things just as well as younger people.

As she explained: “Previous research has shown it is our source memory – information about the contextual details of an event – which declines as we get older, so for example, we may remember having a conversation with someone, but the details of where and when that conversation took place escapes us.

“Previously it was thought the decline was pretty much universal, but we have shown that while older people struggle with arbitrary source information (anything which isn’t particularly important) when it comes to more meaningful source information, there is no difference between younger and older adults. This suggests that if we did extra things to try to remember information to make it more meaningful, there’s a better chance we would be successful.”

Dr Loaiza worked with Essex colleague Professor Geoff Ward and their French colleagues Gabriel Jarjat, Sophie Portrat and Pascal Hot on the research which has been published in the Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences. The research was supported by the Experimental Psychology Society.

Dr Loaiza is now carrying out further research into what strategies would effectively help older people improve their memory.