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Research Article  |   July 1995
Working Memory and Older Adults: Implications for Occupational Therapy
Author Affiliations
  • Corinna Andiel, MA, is a doctorate student in Rehabilitation Science, 2-64 Corbett Hall, Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2G4
  • Lili Liu, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Article Information
Geriatrics/Productive Aging / Practice
Research Article   |   July 1995
Working Memory and Older Adults: Implications for Occupational Therapy
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July/August 1995, Vol. 49, 681-686. doi:10.5014/ajot.49.7.681
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July/August 1995, Vol. 49, 681-686. doi:10.5014/ajot.49.7.681
Abstract

Atkinson and Shiffrin’s (1968) modal model of memory is still commonly used by rehabilitation professionals to evaluate memory impairment in older adults. However, research to date has been unable to indicate that short-term memory declines with age. These findings have led some rehabilitation professionals to mistakenly conclude that short-term memory is not affected by the aging process. This article reviews both the traditional concept of short-term memory, as outlined by Atkinson and Shiffrin, and the more recent conceptualization of short-term memory in terms of Baddeley and Hitch’s (1974) model of working memory. The implications of the concept of working memory has implications for occupational therapy interventions for older adults. For example, clients with dementia may experience difficulties in performing tasks that require drawing inferences. Similarly, language that contains vague references may present problems for these clients. In addition, changes in working memory in older adults suggest that they may experience difficulties with medication management and what Rule, Milke, and Dobbs (1992) called wayfinding. Therefore, evaluations of working memory would provide a better indication of older adults’ memory performance than the modal model.