Date Published: 9 August 2005

Research suggests that reading recall of healthy adults similar for healthy 18 and 70 year-olds

Health News from Australia.

The University of New South Wales (located in Sydney, Australia) has recently announced research demonstrating that healthy, intelligent people in their late 70s are just as good as 18-year-olds at recalling material they have read.

The study indicated that age made no difference regardless of whether the subject matter was simple and familiar or complex and unfamiliar.

"We found that the memory of older people aged 63 to 78 years was virtually the same as young adults aged 18 to 27 years in a series of reading recall tests,"
says psychology student, Laura Haynes, who did the research for her honours thesis.

Ms Haynes has just won a prestigious double scholarship worth almost $400,000 (AUS) over three years to continue with doctoral research at Cambridge University, in the UK.
She summarised the benefits of recent research:

" It seems reasonable to interpret these findings as another good reason for staying fit and healthy as you age: apart from the physical benefits, it would seem that you stay healthy in mind as well."

While some research seems to confirm that older people have more problems with what is known as "prospective memory" - that is, remembering to do something in the future - Ms Haynes questions the validity of other studies suggesting that they have trouble remembering written material:

"Some studies have shown the apparent inability of older people to remember nonsense syllables and random sequences of digits but you've got to wonder how those results apply to everyday life situations."

Supervised by Dr Peter Birrell, of the UNSW School of Psychology, Ms Haynes tested 64 people evenly divided between the two age groups and selected for their good health and ability to perform better than average in verbal IQ tests.
Older people were recruited from book clubs and bridge clubs. She explained that,

" We screened out people who'd had conditions - such as stroke, dementia, high blood pressure or brain trauma - that contribute to memory loss,
_ Also, we only accepted very bright people from the top 16% IQ group. We did that because it made it easier to attribute any differences in memory performance between the two groups to ageing, rather than other cognitive factors

Source: The University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia)

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