Can a memory club help maintain cognitive function? A pilot investigation

Thomas Fritsch, Aurora Health Care
McKee J. McClendon
Maggie S. Wallendal, Aurora Health Care
Kathleen A. Smyth
David S. Geldmacher
Trevor F. Hyde, Aurora Health Care
Gary J. Leo, Aurora Health Care

Parkinson Research Institute, Aurora Sinai Medical Center


In a pilot investigation we evaluated the impact of a structured early memory loss (EML) program intervention in a longitudinal (repeated measures) study of 55 persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia. At four test sites we examined whether participation in the club—which sought to stimulate mental activity and social interaction, provide opportunities for light exercise, and teach memory strategies—would be associated with changes in cognitive function during 1 year. Controlling for relevant covariates, we found that club participation was associated with improvements in two of three executive function measures and maintenance of function in two of three memory measures. We observed decline, over time, on a measure of delayed recall. There were interactions between change and test site, indicating that some effects were related to where clubs were located. This pilot study suggests that EML clubs may be an efficacious, nonpharmacologic intervention for people with early memory loss. However, further research (especially randomized control trials) is needed before recommending widespread implementation of this program.