Everyday memory strategy use in older adults

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Lustig, Emily L.
Hertzog, Christopher
Singleton, Jenny L.
Verhaeghen, Paul
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Existing everyday memory questionnaires and interview studies lack the depth of knowledge necessary to understand the ways in which older adults use their memories during their everyday lives. These assessments do not elicit qualitative information about (1) how strategies or aids are used within the context of their daily lives and (2) how effective they are at helping older adults achieve their goals. These measures also implicitly assume that the use of memory strategies in daily life are a consequence of experienced memory decline and are used explicitly as a form of adopted compensation (Bäckman & Dixon, 1992; Dixon, de Frias & Bäckman, 2001). These critical issues were assessed through a qualitative coding analysis performed on 26 individually tailored, semi-structured qualitative interviews with older adults about their everyday remembering. The interviews elicited information about how older adults implemented memory strategies, how efficacious these procedures were in helping them achieve their goals, and how they were conceptualized. Additionally, the interviews elicited detailed information about the context in which memory failures occurred and beliefs held by the participants about their memories. The qualitative analysis revealed several themes. First, everyday memory strategy use arises for a variety of reasons, not solely as a form of explicit memory compensation. Second, stated importance played a major role in older adults’ approach to everyday remembering behaviors. Third, partially-structured habits and routines left individuals vulnerable to forgetting. Finally, a unique nexus exists among self-perceptions, older adults’ perceived memory skills, and their beliefs about memory control. The implications of this research have the potential to improve older adults’ everyday remembering by informing the design of an intervention to create a repertoire of self-regulatory strategies to help manage and improve everyday remembering.
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