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In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to pharmacologic treatments for senile dementias (Reisberg, Ferris, & Gershon, 1979). Many researchers have also studied memory complaints as a sign of depression in the elderly and have attempted to differentiate them from dementia (Kahn et al., 1975; Kiloh, 1961; Wells, 1979). Little work, however, has been done toward developing practical strategies to help nondepressed elderly people experiencing age-related cognitive decline.
Researchers have documented that nondepressed elderly people may score in the “normal” range on screening tests for senile dementia, though still experiencing age-related cognitive declines, a phenomenon recently described in a series of meetings of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as “minimal memory impairment” (MMI) (Annapolis and Key West, November 1985). Craik's classic review of memory and aging (1977) and Poon's extensive recent review (1985) list a wide variety of significant and substantial declines in memory function in old versus young “normals.” Elders who want to continue to work as long as possible may be appropriately concerned if these “normal” losses lead to reduced ability to function professionally or lead to social embarrassment. The purpose of this chapter is to review the cognitive changes that occur with normal aging, critically discuss prior attempts to reduce these losses, present some recent modifications to these attempts, and then finally focus on the limitations of current studies with implications for future research.
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