Meeting Minutes - Dr. Anree-Ann Cyr:Cognitive Studies of the Elderly-May 3rd. 2018
President Ed Herold opened the meeting at 9:55 am at Trinity United Church. There were 46 members and guests in attendance. He welcomed today’s speaker, Dr. Andrée-Ann Cyr. Also welcomed were new member Stuart Smith and a potential new member, Paul Gilroy.
Announcements Coffee Club – Andy Curtis Meeting on alternate Thursdays @ 10:00 am at the Boathouse and the Airpark Café
Activities – Ray Biffis - The tour of the firehall is May 29th and there are nearly 20 signed up. - The Sleeman tour is scheduled for June 7th, 2018 between 6:30 to 8:30 pm. - The Grand River Boat cruise is scheduled for Wed. Sept. 19th, 2018. - The Elora Horse Race night is scheduled for Mon. Sept. 24th, 2018 for 30 to 40 guests. - A tour of the Art Gallery of Guelph is being looked into by David Wallace, date TBD. - A tentative outing is being looked into for Mountsberg Raptors Nature Centre near Halton and there are about 20 people already signed up for this.
Annual Fees – Fees of $80 now due. Please make payment to Treasurer, Alex Wilson.
Nominations for Board of Directors – John Proctor is the chairperson of the Nomination Committee. If you are interested in serving on the Board of Directors, contact John to make you interest known.
Next speaker: Thurs. May 17th. -Catherine Ollerhead De Santis "Finding King Richard"
Julian Sale introduced today’s guest speaker, Dr. Andree Ann-Cyr on "Cognitive Studies of the Elderly."
Dr. Cyr is an assistant professor of psychology at York University’s Glendon Campus. She conducts research on the effects of normal aging on learning and memory. She obtained her PhD from the University of Toronto and worked with researchers at Baycrest Geriatric Hospital. Andrée-Ann is a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the Glendon Centre for Cognitive Health. The Glendon Centre for Cognitive Health supports research in neuropsychology with a focus on cognitive aging. André-Ann’s research focuses on whether making mistakes during learning helps or harms memory among younger and older adults.
Dr. Andrée-Ann Cyr -- Cognitive Studies of the Elderly (Dr. Cyr’s slide presentation can be viewed on the RCMC website under Speaker’s Notes for May 3rd.)
Dr. Cyr opened by stating that the take-away message of her presentation is older adults do not learn in fundamentally different ways than younger adults. What this means is that the learning strategies that are shown to be beneficial among younger adults generally are the same as we get older. There is nothing magical about memory and reaching the age of 65.
The bad news is that some types of memory gets worse as we get older. There is a structure in the brain called the hippocampus that is susceptible to the ravages of time. This is important because this is the gateway for all of the information that we want to commit to memory. This is the hub for episodic memory. Episodic memories are those related to a specific time and place.
The good news is that some types of memory get better. Semantic memory is the types of memory associated with concepts and general knowledge and these improve with age.
Dr. Cyr informed us about ways to put the brakes on some types of episodic memory loss. Short term memory is only about one minute long. So you need to learn how to transition short term memory into long term memory. Short term memory is no different between younger and older adults. The process of getting short term memory to long term memory is called encoding.
If you have to process memory in a deep manner age processes are minimized. As we get older we are less likely to engage in connection-making. The good news is that we are still able to do it but we need a little bit of a nudge. So if you need to remember something you need to make some kind of connection with what you want to remember. The other thing is to not cram information such as some students do before an exam. Space the retrieval of the information at various lengths like repeating the information to be remembered in various ways. Memory clues are needed and more important as we get older in order to retrieve information in the brain. Quality of processing is important; that is, we have to do something with the information learned and we have to bolster support of the recalled information.
There also needs to be motivation to learn and remember something. If the information is not needed then there is less motivation to remember it. Younger and older adults are motivated to learn different things for different reasons. Younger adults, such as students, are motivated and learn because they are used to taking instructions. Older adults are at a very different phase of life and the learning is not going to be as “indiscriminate.” Framing things as a “test” is more threatening to older adults so there is a need to frame things as a “learning opportunity.” Older adults are more selective as to how they use their cognitive abilities. They tend to prioritize what is more important.
It is easier to remember information that fits in with information that we already have and this becomes more important as we get older. Also, as we get older we are more oriented to information that is more positive relative to negative. Older adults are better at regulating their emotions, what puts them into a good mood, and how to maintain that good mood. As we get older, we begin to realize that life is finite and we tend to prioritize what is important and what is useless information. As older adults we should save material that interests us and use familiar frames of reference to make sense of new information.
Regarding the concept of “use it or lose it”… the brain is not a muscle and doing brain games is not a good use of your time. Essentially when you do these types of games you get better but that is due to repetition and not memory retention. It’s not the best way to stay cognitively engaged. What we should do is to stay active. Socializing and learning new skills is important for productive/active engagement. Learning something new is better especially if it is cognitively engaging and variety is the spice of life. It’s not one kind of activity but doing a variety of activities. Choose activities that are reasonably complex and varied. Developing strategies is more important than improving on a single task.
What' s the truth about computers? Does using a computer help with memory? Yes, but they tend to make us lazy. Studies have shown that handwriting is a better way to help remember things. Writing something down helps you to remember better but you need to be selective as to what you write. Should you make notes? Yes, but effort is the ally of learning and memory. Keep your mind busy! with social engagement in life.
Is physical exercising helpful? Absolutely. You need to get your heart rate up and aerobic exercise is the best.
Dr. Cyr responded to questions from the membership following her presentation.