New ACL Publication: Gerontology

“Behaviors and Strategies Supporting Everyday Memory in Older Adults.”

Background: Little is known about the means by which older adults achieve memory-demanding goals in everyday life or alternatively about why they fail to do so.
Objectives: We conducted qualitative interviews to evaluate what older people do to support everyday memory functioning. A principal focus was on understanding the ways in which individuals use internal memory strategies and external memory aids. Methods: We interviewed 25 community-dwelling older adults (mean age 70 years) in a semi-structured interview. The transcribed results were coded by extracting segments of the interviews and classifying the responses into emergent categories. All coded interview segments were reviewed by category. Memos were created and relevant themes identified.
Results: The older adults reported everyday memory failures (such as forgetting names), often without nominating explicit methods for avoiding these problems. They also reported using a number of external memory aids such as calendars and lists. Our interviews indicated this use was typically a part of complex routines and habits of living that often seemed vulnerable to errors. For instance, people would report filling medication organizers or completing to-do lists without mentioning plans for how to effectively use these aids later. Furthermore, they often reported reliance on spontaneous encoding and retrieval – for example, stating that they would routinely remember to perform important actions in the future.
Conclusions: Older adults’ reported everyday memory failures were linked to suboptimal use of external memory aids and to a reliance on incidental learning and remembering. There is potential value for interventions that improve procedures for managing everyday life goals that rely on memory.

Hertzog, C., Lustig, E., Pearman, A., & Waris, A. (2019). Behaviors and Strategies Supporting Everyday Memory in Older Adults. Gerontology, 1-11.