You can improve your memory at any age

Published 10:23am Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Most of us know that aging brings all sorts of interesting challenges – like forgetfulness. The good news, according to a report from Johns Hopkins University is that minor, age-related memory lapses are normal and can’t be totally eliminated. But, there are some things you can do that will improve your overall memory no matter what your age.
Here are some memory tips you can use to help you with your recall efforts:
1. Place frequently used items like car keys in the same location every time you put them down.
2. Don’t rely solely on your memory – write things down and keep that list in a highly visible location. Write down phone numbers and use a centrally located calendar to write down appointments. Make a daily “To Do” list before you go to bed so you’ll know what you must accomplish the next day.
3. Give yourself verbal confirmation. Say aloud, “I’ve already turned off the lawn sprinkler” or “I’ve turned off the stove” after doing so. To remember people’s names, use their names in a conversation immediately after meeting them, for example, “Steve, it was nice to meet you, I hope I’ll see you again soon.” These spoken verbal cues will aid your memory recall.
4. Use technology as memory aids. A PDA, cell phone, iPad or even a wrist watch with an alarm can provide information or prompts to help you recall what you need to do and today’s technology is great for storing key information at your fingertips.
5. Create visual images. New information is more readily remembered and recalled if you can attach it to a visual image in your mind.  Mental pictures of people can help you with name recall.
6. Use mnemonic techniques.  A mnemonic is any technique that helps you to remember. For example, Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Dirty Harry are mnemonic devices to help you recall those particular first names. As a school kid, I need to memorize the order and colors of the rainbow. I was taught the nonsense word VIBGYOR – violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.  That’s a mnemonic device!
7. Relax and concentrate. Usually there’s a lot going on around us that can disrupt our train of thought or focus. Do your best to block out distractions.  Also, stay relaxed. Stress and anxiety can disrupt recall. If you find yourself becoming anxious, take several deep breaths and take a moment to relax your tense muscles.
8. Get enough sleep.  Research studies have shown that people are better at remembering recently acquired or learned information the next day if they have had a good night’s sleep.
9. Don’t assume your memory lapses are normal. If you believe that you’re having memory problems, see your doctor to rule out any physical or emotional problems. Depression, hearing loss, some medications and stress are just a few of the medical conditions that can cause memory loss.
You know, I’m fairly certain that when I started writing my notes for this article that I had ten suggestions to improve memory and recall. But I’ll be darned if I can remember what the tenth one was.
Ron Kauffman is a geriatric consultant and planner in private practice in Henderson & Polk Counties. He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available at the Polk County Senior Center.  His podcasts can be heard weekly at www.seniorlifestyles.net. You can reach him at his office at (828) 626-9799, on his cell at (561) 818-0039 or by email at drron561@gmail.com.

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