'Absentminded' Errors Common in Older Adults: Study

WEDNESDAY June 20, 2012 -- It's common for seniors to struggle to recall a word that's on the tip of their tongue, a new study shows.

University of Michigan researchers found that this type of memory lapse occurred in 61 percent of 105 healthy, highly educated older adults aged 65 to 92.

The participants filled out a checklist of the memory errors they made in the previous 24 hours and underwent several other tests. About half of them reported making errors that may be related to absentmindedness, such as forgetting where they placed an item or having to reread a sentence because they forgot what it said.

The study was published online in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition.

The findings may help brain-training programs target memory problems that older people experience in daily life, rather than those that occur in laboratory tests, said senior study author and psychology professor Cindy Lustig.

"We wanted to identify which errors still occur despite changes people might be making in their environment and routine. That's where it may be especially important to change the person," she said in a university news release.

Lustig stressed that occasionally forgetting a name or word does not meant that an elderly person is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia.

"Everybody forgets," she said. "However, our findings suggest that certain types of memory errors may be especially important to monitor for increases, which then should be discussed with a clinician."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about forgetfulness.

Posted: June 2012


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