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A Study on Short Term Memory in Later Life

The current study on short-term memory in later life was conducted within the framework of the EU funded project “SENTAB: Combatting Senior Loneliness through Fun and Entertaining Technology”. The research tested the users’ Cognitive Index over the period of 3 months of SentabTV usage and evidenced a gradual improvement from 5.59 points in November 2016 to 6.07 points as of end of January 2017.

Key Findings: 

  • Older adults tend to be conservative in their estimation of their cognitive capabilities. The qualitative feedback from older adults rated their short-term memory at 1.3 points out of 4 possible, the quantitative study proved it to be closer to 2.8 out of 4 possible. On average users were able to retrieve information correctly 66%-70% of the time and around 80% for image retrievals, which indicates that their cognitive capabilities are in fact between “good” and “very good” by Sentab’s classification;
  • 61% of the pilot users felt that their memory did improve somewhat after being asked if playing memory games influenced their memory (and attention) during the past 4 weeks. 7.7% considered that exercises have significantly improved their memory and attention. This was also backed up by observing quantitative data – the index for the month of November 2016 was 5.59 out of 10 possible, while it slightly increased by end of December 2016 to 5.98 and finally to 6.07 by end of January 2017. This shows a positive trend towards improvement, that is statistically relevant and confirms the subjective feedback from the project participants where the majority of the respondents felt that their memory has somewhat improved;
  • The improvement happened primarily with the individuals who started off with a Cognitive Index© levels between 4 to 7, whereas the ones who started off at very high points, above 7 generally were maintaining similar cognitive agility;
  • The people in the cohort were engaged in memory exercises between 14 to 16 days during that period. On average that is every fifth day or roughly one to two times a week;
  • The authors also ran a correlation analysis between different indexes used within Sentab Index©. The analysis proved that there is a little correlation between the level of physical activity and cognitive capabilities, which generally proves the previous studies which did not find a convincing connection between those two areas. However, there is more significant correlation between the cognitive index and social interaction that leads us to believe that people with healthier social exposure are generally displaying better cognitive capabilities.

The full paper can be downloaded here.