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Aging workgroup promotes public dialogue on healthy memory

The Issue

The number of seniors in California has increased at a rate greater than the national average, with county rates ranging from 7 to 20 percent. This is coupled with a rise in hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, heart and kidney disease, and neurological diseases such as dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer's disease. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of dementia increases steadily with age. Six to 10 percent of seniors age 65 or older suffer from dementia; while 58 percent of seniors over 94 may suffer from dementia. Preventive measures -- such as learning coping skills and performing physical and mental activities to promote a healthy brain -- can help optimize memory.

What Has ANR Done?

The Human Resources Workgroup: Aging Californians in Rural and Urban Settings is working to educate seniors, professionals and the general public about how to cope with memory loss. The workgroup initiated a dialogue on memory, cognition, dementia, care-giving, therapies, and health promotion at a 2007 forum in Southern California and a 2008 forum in northern California. The goal was to provide an update on the most recent research on normal and abnormal memory changes; challenges faced by caregivers and family members caring for elders with dementia; alternative therapies to prevent and treat dementia; and how mental health, physical health, activity and brain function interrelate with memory performance in later life.

The Payoff

ANR teams with gerontologists to promote healthy memory

Attendees at the Los Angeles forum were mainly extension professionals. Attendees at the Sacramento event were seniors, senior services staff, volunteers, ombudsmen, nurses, social workers, teachers, a massage therapist, an exercise physiologist, ANR staff, and other professionals in gerontology and aging. The evaluations demonstrated the need for this public dialogue on healthy memory. Participants rated both events 4.7 out of 5 for usefulness and quality.

The forums provide opportunities for campus, county and external collaboration. Human Development faculty at UC Davis presented research on memory and cognition, physical activity and brain functions. Cooperative Extension advisors from Sacramento and Alameda counties presented research on care-giving, grand-parenting, and quality-of-life education needs of vulnerable seniors. The forums also incorporated research on alternative therapies from the USC Keck School of Medicine Alzheimer’s National Research Center, and client communication and care-giving skills from American River College Gerontology Department.

A future forum planned for Los Angeles will aim to increase the attendance of seniors and caregivers. Future presentations planned for northern California will be at senior centers, housing units and other community facilities.

Clientele Testimonial

"Learning that some memory loss is normal was a great relief. I thought I was losing my mind."

"The conference helped me consolidate and make sense out of bits and pieces I knew and added new information."


Supporting Unit:

UC Davis Human Development, American River College Gerontology, USC - Keck School of Medicine, UCCE Alameda County, Los Angeles County, and UCCE Sacramento County.
Mary L. Blackburn, mlblackburn@ucdavis.edu, (510) 639-1274