Destination amnesia a concern for seniors

by MichelleR on November 8, 2010

While reading the recent findings below I was surprised to learn about this phenomenon and presents to me an opportunity to be more observant with our elders and to have a different appreciation about how our brain works as we age.

Older adults are more likely to have destination memory failures – forgetting who they’ve shared or not shared information with, according to a new study led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute.

It’s the kind of memory faux pas that can lead to awkward or embarrassing social situations and even miscommunication in the doctor’s office. These seniors also are reluctant to admit they are wrong.

“What we’ve found is that older adults tend to experience more destination amnesia than younger adults,” said lead investigator Dr. Nigel Gopie, who led the study with Drs. Fergus Craik and Lynn Hasher.

“Destination amnesia is characterized by falsely believing you’ve told someone something, such as believing you’ve told your daughter about needing a ride to an appointment, when you actually had told a neighbor.”

The ability to focus and pay attention declines with age, so older adults use up most of their attention resources on the telling of information and don’t properly encode the context, such as who they are speaking to, for later recall.

“Older adults are additionally highly confident, compared to younger adults, that they have never told people particular things when they actually had,” said Gopie. “This over-confidence presumably causes older adults to repeat information to people.”

A critical finding in the study is that destination memory is more vulnerable to age-related decline than source memory, which is the ability to recall which person told you certain information.

Maybe you have witnessed this type of behavior and can comment?


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