Have you been experiencing senior moments such as: walking into a room to get something and forgetting what the something was, or talking to someone and can’t think of the proper word to use? Don’t be alarmed! It is important to realize that normal age-related memory loss does not indicate senility, and simple forgetfulness is not always a serious disease.
To be fair, memory lapse may only mean we need to “slow down” and focus on the task at hand or learn simple techniques designed to help remember information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall.
Let’s define the term memory. Memory is the mental activity used to acquire, store, retain and recall information that is learned or experienced. It is comprised of short- and long-term memory.
Short-term memory is information stored for a few seconds or minutes. It is brief and is intended to be more broad recall, not remembering every detail. Even a DVD or flash drive, from time to time, will register at some point “disk full.” According to one of the most highly cited papers in psychology, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” (1956) by George A. Miller, illustrates that the brain is meant to hold an average of seven items, which is one of the reasons one can remember phone numbers and not credit card numbers.
Long-term memory involves data one makes an effort to retain because it is personally meaningful to you – relationships with family and friends, job responsibilities or emotional impressions from movies, music, and death.
Listed are healthy tips to improve your memory:
- Practice association. Relate new information to something already known. When meeting someone, say the name repeatedly and associate the name with someone else with the same name. Catching a plane at 2 p.m.? Imagine the plane in your mind with its two wings. Two wings – 2 p.m. There’s an association.
- Pay attention. Research something you don’t know and memorize it.
- Organize information. Keep a journal. Make a grocery list when shopping and group like items – produce with produce or put in alphabetical order. Place items routinely used in the same place – for instance, car keys. When shopping at the mall, park by the same store every time.
- Tailor information according to your learning style. Some people remember best what they have seen, others what they have heard, while still others what they have experienced. Knowing your learning style will help you develop strategies to compensate for your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths.
- Involve as many senses as possible. Relate information to colors, textures, smells and taste.
- Rehearse information frequently. Review what has been learned the same day. Also, discuss the new information with someone to add content to your new experience.
- Socialize more. Idleness does not stimulate the brain. Enjoy friends around physical activities — play cards, charades, or board games.
- Regular exercise. It helps with the flow of oxygen to the brain. An older person often experiences decreased blood flow to the brain as well as heart disease from inactivity .
- Get enough sleep. A minimum of 7 hours will improve your mental alertness.
- Eat healthy. Good food nourishes the brain. Foods containing antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids appear to promote healthy brain functioning.
Most of us have a really good memory, but we just don’t always practice using it effectively. Your brain is a muscle; if you don’t work it, you lose the ability to remember. The best way to improve your memory is to work at it daily. It takes commitment to maintain brain fitness, and be aware that your brain will benefit from many lifestyle measures that are essential for physical health. To sum it up, “Use it or Lose it.”