Helping Older Adults Improve Memory, Deal with Anxiety

Background & Goal

Older adults frequently deal with anxiety linked to memory lapses. The prevalence of these memory complaints vary from 3% to as high as 59% with a conversion rate to dementia varying from 8 to 15%. 10 million U.S. Baby Boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease. The 2010 Genworth Impact of Long Term Caring survey found that 23% of the care needed was due to cognitive impairment.

SeniorWISE strives to improve the memory skills and performance, and change the negative beliefs about cognitive aging of older adults and, in doing so, reduce their stress levels.

Center Description

SeniorWISE (Wisdom Is Simply Exploration) is focused on modifying risk factors and developing interventions to improve the everyday memory function of older adults. Participants learn to deal with anxiety linked to memory lapses via the use of attention-focusing, memory strategy training, repeated practice, relevant modeling by others like themselves, and realistic expectations about cognitive abilities with age. It is designed for various environments where older adults live, recreate and work and it emphasizes maintenance of the instrumental activities of daily living, e.g., reading a prescription label and dialing the pharmacy to order a refill. SeniorWISE was implemented in Cleveland, Ohio (1996-1998) with 175 older adults; Central Texas (2001-2011) with 420 older adults; and Arkansas (2007-2011) with 114 older adults.

For More Information Contact:


Graham J. McDougall, Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA

Florida State University
College of Nursing

Evidence of Success

  • Out-of-pocket expenditures in 1995 for hospitalization, nursing home care stays, outpatient treatment, home care and prescription medications were $1,350 for someone without cognitive impairment, $2,150 for someone with mild or moderate dementia, and $3,010 for an individual with severe dementia. SeniorWISE (by preserving the cognitive skills of 265 individuals) and rendering higher, more costly levels of treatment unnecessary produced savings for care of $800 per patient over two years for a total of $2.1 million. If inflation adjusted to 2009 costs, assuming a conservative annual increase of 10% ($3,038 in 2009), the savings would increase to $3.5M.
  • Translation of obesity and cognitive research in Arkansas via senior centers. Centers for Disease Control (1R18 DP001145-01) $1.2 Million-Total costs (2007-2012).
  • Better Way to Live at Home: Education, Resources and Supports for Older Adults. Community Innovations in Aging in Place Initiative funded through the Administration on Aging. Translated in public housing, Austin, Texas. Family Elder Care, $1.4 Million total costs (2009-2012).