Older adults who read a text and then describe what they have just read to another person remember more details than if they re-read the information several times, according to researchers at the University of Florida.
“Older adults are actually better than younger adults at recalling the overall gist of what they learn, but they have more difficulty remembering details,” said lead investigator Yvonne Rogalski, Ph.D., who conducted the research as part of her doctoral dissertation work at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions.
“Older adults can rely on things they’ve learned in the past and they can build on that vast wealth of semantic information that they’ve collected over the years. That works as long as the information is familiar, but where it breaks down is when they have to read something that is unfamiliar and has a lot of details,” said Rogalski, now an assistant professor in the department of speech-language pathology and audiology at Ithaca College in New York State.
As a doctoral student, Rogalski developed a training technique called Read Attentively, Summarize and Review, or RASR. In this method, participants read a passage aloud and then summarize from memory what they’ve just read. The idea is to help people “encode” information and create a memory out of it.
For the study, published in the journal Aphasiology, 44 healthy adults (ages 60 to 75) used one of two methods to remember the details from texts on real — but unusual — animals.
Participants in the RASR group read the whole passage aloud once. Then they reread each paragraph aloud, summarized it from memory and then re-read it aloud again.
Other participants who used a technique called Read and Reread Attentively, read the entire passage aloud once, and then re-read each paragraph three times aloud in succession. Participants in both groups were tested immediately after studying and then again 24 hours later.
“In the reading aloud portion, attention is heightened because you know you’re going to have to recall something,” she said. “Then retrieving that information through the summaries has the ability to act as a secondary encoding. Reading and recalling the text paragraph by paragraph instead of the whole text is designed to reduce the information processing demands.”
The findings showed that volunteers who summarized the information aloud remembered more details than those who just re-read the material. Furthermore, using the summarization method with an immediate post-test showed the most benefit for remembering text details after a 24 hour delay.
“We think it is effective because by reading the information and then putting it into your own words you have to do quite a bit of processing of not only the information, but also the relationships among bits of information,” said study co-author Dr. Lori Altmann, an associate professor in the University of Florida department of speech, language, and hearing sciences.
“The RASR method is a very functional treatment and it’s something that healthy older adults or even people with mild dementias could use on their own to try and improve their memory,” Altmann said. “It doesn’t involve anything high-tech, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Source: University of Florida