Cognitively impaired older adults exhibit comparable difficulties on naturalistic and laboratory prospective memory tasks

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Prospective memory, or remembering future intentions, is critical for independent living for all ages, but especially older adults. Previous laboratory research has found that cognitively impaired older adults may have particular difficulties with prospective memory, but previous studies have not examined whether these difficulties occur in everyday life. In normal ageing, a dissociation between settings has been observed, with older adults selectively impaired in laboratory (but not naturalistic) contexts. Consequently, in the present study 15 cognitively impaired older adults were compared to demographically matched controls on laboratory and naturalistic measures of prospective memory. The results indicated that the cognitively impaired group performed more poorly on both measures, with the magnitude of the deficit comparable across setting. These results indicate that for older adults who present with cognitive impairment prospective memory deficits observed in laboratory settings may be a valid indicator of difficulties experienced executing delayed intentions in everyday life.

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Journal Article

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