Prospective and retrospective memory in normal ageing and dementia: a questionnaire study

Memory. 2000 Sep;8(5):311-21. doi: 10.1080/09658210050117735.


Frequency of prospective memory and retrospective memory failures was rated on a 16-item questionnaire by 862 volunteers, from five groups: patients with Alzheimer Disease (rated by carers), carers of Alzheimer Disease patients, elderly, young, and a group of married couples. Reported memory failures were highest for Alzheimer Disease patients, and lowest for carers, with elderly and young controls in between. More prospective memory than retrospective memory failures were reported in all groups, although the difference was small for Alzheimer Disease patients who were rated near ceiling for both. Prospective memory failures of Alzheimer Disease patients were reported as more frustrating for carers than retrospective memory failures; prospective memory and retrospective memory failures frustrated Alzheimer Disease patients equally. Data from the couples indicated that there were no biases resulting from rating on behalf of someone else. These results suggest that: (1) normal ageing has no greater effect on self-reported retrospective memory than prospective memory failures, (2) the relatively small number of memory failures reported by carers may result from comparing themselves with the Alzheimer Disease patients in their care, and (3) prospective memory failures have a greater impact on the lives of the carers and are therefore more likely to be reported as early indicants of the disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Caregivers
  • Cues
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Memory Disorders / psychology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Spouses
  • Surveys and Questionnaires