Aging Stereotypes Could Hurt Memory

Tim Watt  |  August 14, 2013

Perceptions of retirement have changed considerably in recent years. Today's seniors are more active and engaged than older adults of generations past, but there are several stereotypes that have persisted, and they could have a significant impact on healthy senior living. One of the most pervasive of these assumptions is that older adults encounter a sharp decline in memory, and while there are some cognitive issues associated with aging, reminding seniors of them could exacerbate the problem, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

The study was performed by researchers at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology, who looked at how adults between 59 and 79 performed on memory tests. One group of participants read fake news stories about memory loss in seniors before taking the tests while the other read nothing. The team discovered that subjects who were confronted with age-related stereotypes performed worse than those who weren't. 

"Older adults should be careful not to buy into negative stereotypes about aging - attributing every forgetful moment to getting older can actually worsen memory problems," said lead author Sarah Barber.

In addition to avoiding negative stereotypes about aging, older adults can take other steps to help keep their minds sharp during retirement. Experts have found that staying physically active may be one of the most effective methods. Some of the most compelling evidence comes from University of California, Irvine, where researchers investigated whether something as small as a single bout of exercise could have a positive impact on memory. They discovered that physical activity improved memory, even in participants who had mild cognitive impairment. 

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