Helping Older Adults Improve Memory, Deal with Anxiety

Background & Goal

Older adults frequently deal with anxiety linked to memory lapses. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey found that 11% of Americans aged 45 and older reported subjective cognitive decline, but 54% of those who reported it had not consulted a health care professional (Taylor et al., 2018). SeniorWISE strives to improve 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

Senior WISE (Wisdom Is Simply Exploration) is focused on modifying risk factors and developing interventions to improve the everyday memory function of older adults across the cognitive spectrum. 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. The intervention was 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. Senior WISE 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, and Austin, Texas with 133 octogenarians (2011-2012).

For More Information Contact:


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

Senior WISE
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Evidence of Success

  • Total per-person health care and long-term care payments in 2020 from all sources for Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s or other dementias were over three times as great as payments for other Medicare beneficiaries in the same age group; $52,481 per person for those with dementia compared with $14,976 per person for those without dementia. (Alzheimer’s Association. 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Dement 2022,18)
  • Senior WISE (by preserving the cognitive skills of 842 Senior WISE participants) and rendering higher, more costly levels of treatment unnecessary produced savings for care of $37,505 per patient over two years for a total of $31.6 million, If inflation adjusted to 2020 costs.
  • 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).