What happens when the memory loss associated with aging prevents someone from fully comprehending the words they read? For many with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD), they close the book, newspaper, or magazine, losing an important means of connecting with the outside world.
Over the past year, two University of New England researchers and a team of students have studied elderly subjects to better understand the effects of aging and memory decline on reading comprehension. Ultimately, they hope to use their findings to identify new approaches that will allow individuals with ADRD to enjoy meaningful reading longer into their lives.
Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour, Ph.D., an assistant professor in UNE’s Department of Psychology, is leading the study, which also involves Professor Regula H. Robnett, Ph.D., from UNE’s Department of Occupational Therapy. Robnett has helped recruit research subjects from several assisted living facilities in the Portland, Maine area.
An expert on the memory processes underlying reading comprehension, Stiegler-Balfour previously focused on college-age individuals. She turned her focus to older individuals in the hope of pinpointing factors that influence a decline in reading comprehension as a person ages.