Growing older can lead to some noticeable changes in the strength of our memory. These changes can be small and as common as forgetting the name of someone you once knew or failing to recall why you went into a certain room. Or they can be more substantial such as taking a wrong turn on a route you know well. Forgetting things we once knew can be a frustrating and upsetting occurrence, often due to the fear we hold of it being the cause of a neurological illness such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. For most people, these memory problems are a normal reflection of the changes we experience as we age – our cognitive processes slow down and cause more difficulty in learning new things or enabling us to get easily distracted while trying to focus. Fortunately, due to research in the field, there are various ways in which we can keep our memory sharp as we age to protect our minds.
Continuing To Learn
Researchers believe that keeping mentally active can result in better mental functions as we age. By continuously challenging our brains with mental exercise and high levels of education, individual brain cells are maintained and stimulated. Learning a new skill or taking up a hobby can be just as beneficial as having a job in terms of building and preserving brain connections, including interests such as reading, playing board games, learning a musical instrument, writing, doing puzzles, working in the garden or volunteering for a project or charity.
Repeating information can really help to reinforce the memory or connection and can reduce the chances of forgetting it in the future. By repeating the information out loud and writing it down, you’re more likely to remember it. You should always be sure to ask for information to be repeated if you’re unsure of it. Try using someone’s name in the conversation with them to root it in your memory or say out loud where you’re going if you often forget the route on the way. Be sure not to repeat all of this information in a short period of time, as spaced out learning will be much more beneficial and lead to a greater chance of retaining it.
Economize Brain Use
By economizing brain use and freeing your mind of excessive information, you’ll be more likely to remember new and important things. Do this by making use of items designed to help organize our lives, such as diaries, lists, calendars, maps and planners. These items can hold a lot of information and are made to make our days easier. Other ways you can help economize brain use is by decluttering workspaces and rooms to reduce distractions and interruptions from occurring.
Using All Senses
Studies have shown that adults are much more likely to remember information if it is presented alongside a sense, such as a scent being paired with an image. Therefore, the more senses you use in learning something new, the more your brain will be involved in retaining the memory. Try getting used to recalling the taste and smells of your favourite dish, or perhaps try woodland walks and see how many smells you can identify from flowers and trees. Ceramic and sculpting classes would be a great opportunity to observe both the textures and smells presented with the materials used.
As worrying as memory loss can be, memory function actually improves if we believe that we will remember the information we need to retain. Studies have shown that learners do worse on memory tasks if subjected to pessimistic stereotypes about aging and memory, and better if exposed to positive messages about memory preservation. The practice of positive thinking with regards to sharpening your memory as you age can really help to translate those thoughts into a reality.