Can’t find your car keys? Where did you put your purse? These lapses in memory can happen to all of us at any age. Take simple steps now to keep your mind engaged and sharp.
Memory Tricks at Any Age
- Keep learning. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active, but pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill or volunteering can function in the same way.
- Use all your senses. The more senses you use in learning something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory. In one study, adults were shown a series of emotionally neutral images, each presented along with a smell. They were not asked to remember what they saw. Later, they were shown a set of images, this time without odors, and asked to indicate which they’d seen before. They had excellent recall for all odor-paired pictures, and especially for those associated with pleasant smells.
- Believe in yourself. Middle-aged and older learners do worse on memory tasks when they’re exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and memory, and better when the messages are positive. If you believe you can improve, and you translate that belief into practice, you have a better chance of keeping your mind sharp.
- Prioritize your brain use. If you don’t need to use mental energy remembering the time of your granddaughter’s birthday party, you’ll be better able to concentrate on remembering important things. Take advantage of calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists and filing systems to keep routine information accessible. Designate a place at home for your glasses, purse, keys, and other items you use often.
- Repeat what you want to know. When you want to remember something, repeat it out loud or write it down. That way, you reinforce the memory or connection. For example, if you’ve just been told someone’s name, use it when you speak with him or her: “So, John, where did you meet Camille?”