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Cognitive Training Interventions Among Older Adults

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Aging can bring on significant cognitive declines in memory, attention, and executive functions. Risk factors associated with cognitive changes can be age, family history, low education, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, cardiopathies, and cerebrovascular diseases. Intervention programs intended to improve cognitive between older adults have increased in recent years. Cognition is flexible in older age, so that cognitive intervention programs occur within the greater context of cognitive intervention. Through cognitive ability, mentally stimulating activities like memory training help maintain and improve cognitive and functional abilities in regular life. Cognitive interventions facilitate flexibility by training several plans that help encode and retrieve information. Furthermore to improving cognitive performance, research shows interventions can improve self-rated personal memory. Cognitive training interventions among older adults with no cognitive impairment seek to improve memory skills by teaching mnemonic techniques. Common mnemonic strategies include rehearsal, association, categorization, imagery, and concentration. Combinations of these strategies are often taught in cognitive intervention programs. Furthermore, intervention programs often entail training in how to take gain of environmental supports. Based several studies, intervention programs may help maintain, or potentially enhance, cognitive performance in adulthood. Specifically, the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study, the largest randomized trial of cognitive training among older adults to date, reported a retest-adjusted effect size of 0.26 standard deviations (SD) comparing memory gains immediately after Cognitive training with change in the no-contact control group, and an effect size of 0.23 SD five years after training. The potential for improvement in memory is mirrored by results from systematic reviews and meta-analyses of Cognitive intervention. According to Verhaeghen and colleagues (1992) an average standardized pre-post training gain of 0.73 SD in cognitive performance from training, indicating cognitive intervention can improve memory and crystalized intelligence in cognitively normal older adults. Additionally based on Verhaeghen et al. (1992) mnemonic strategies that capitalized on imagery were most effective for increasing crystalized intelligence and memory performance.

Studies show that, the effect of cognitive intervention on cognitive abilities, and reported training effects for paired associate learning, immediate recall, and delayed recall. Memory training for older adults has proliferated in recent years, often without rigorous empirical testing. Researchers have developed cognitive intervention programs that target particular populations of older adults, including those with no cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia, programs for cognitively normal older adults, the focus of the present article, typically entail interactive group sessions over several days or weeks with a trainer but also include self-guided training with take-home packets.

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Research on the impact of participant and program characteristics on cognitive intervention effectiveness is widespread but has produced conflicting results. Existing evidence suggests older age is associated with less training benefit though not all studies replicate this finding. Effects of adherence and training length are understudied in cognitive training research. Although previous researches have demonstrated memory gain following mnemonic instruction over only one or two sessions, group-based memory training programs typically last between five and fifteen hour-long sessions.

Overall, previous researches of cognitive training in later life have reported training interventions benefit older adults’ memory. Existing studies, however, seldom have evaluated training effects by the type of mnemonic strategy employed.


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