Don’t forget to remember…Memory training program helps older adults make brain gains


When RuthAnn, a 72-year-old senior in Squirrel Hill, kept forgetting where she placed her car keys and glasses, she was concerned about her increasing forgetfulness. Her husband and friends had told her these memory troubles were just a normal part of aging, but she wasn’t ready to accept that there was nothing she could do. When she saw an advertisement for a new memory program at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, she felt as though her prayers had been answered. After learning that she was a good fit for the program, she signed up immediately!

Through AgeWell Pittsburgh, a partnership of JF&CS, the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) and the Jewish Community Center (JCC), a new program exists that is designed to help older adults reduce memory problems that tend to develop as they age.

The UCLA Memory Training Program, administered through JF&CS and funded by the Lawrence and Rebecca Stern Family Foundation, is an innovative, research-based program designed for older adults ages 60 years and older. The four-week program focuses on strategies that develop good memory habits, techniques to improve memory and targets the most common memory complaints of older adults: forgetting names and faces; forgetting to do things in the future-like keeping an appointment; forgetting why they walked into a room; forgetting where they put things–like keys or glasses; and “tip of the tongue” memory challenges.

Throughout the program, Ellie Bruner, program coordinator at JF&CS and a certified program trainer, helps program participants learn what memory is and how it works, how memory enhancement techniques work, techniques and strategies to improve memory and how to make general improvements to memory habits. Participants also monitor memory with group discussions, memory checks and memory awareness questionnaires, practice applying memory techniques to real life situations and practice techniques learned with home-based skill builders.

The program requires a two-hour per week commitment for four weeks of training. Typically sessions are held at JF&CS’s office in Squirrel Hill, but the program is also designed to be portable. Bruner and additional certified volunteer program trainers have conducted off-site sessions at senior living centers and community centers throughout Pittsburgh.

“The program is really interactive and fun,” Ellie said. “It’s an educational atmosphere, but there’s a socialization element to this as well. It’s a great way for older adults to not only work on improving their memory but also to get out in the community, socialize and build friendships, which is so important for everyone, but especially for older people.”

Many research studies have shown that the strategies taught to participants of the Memory Training Program are effective in improving memory in older adults with normal, age-related memory challenges, and benefits can last anywhere from six months to five years. It is important to note that the Memory Training program is designed for older adults with mild memory concerns who wish to improve their memory ability. The course is not intended for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

JF&CS is now accepting new participants into the UCLA Memory Training Program for the upcoming winter session, which will be held Wednesdays, February 4th through the 25th from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at JF&CS’s office in Squirrel Hill (5743 Bartlett Street, Pittsburgh, 15217).

For more information about the Memory Training Program, how to set up a program in the community, program costs or to register for the winter session, contact Ellie Bruner at or 412-904-5960.

Additionally, the AgeWell Pittsburgh partnership offers information, resources and a network of services regarding a number of issues related to aging–all designed to help older adults remain healthy and independent. AgeWell Pittsburgh provides services regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, age, handicap or disability.

To learn more about additional resources for older adults and their loved ones, visit or call the AgeWell Pittsburgh hotline at 1-877-243-1530 (toll-free) or 412-422-0400.

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