As you’ve gotten older, you may have noticed your mind playing some tricks on you. You walk around the house frustrated because you can’t find the keys, the television remote, or your glasses. When you head out for a walk, you can’t seem to recall the name of the neighbor you occasionally chat with while they walk their dog. Basically, your memory isn’t what it was when you were younger.
Science indicates that this can be a natural part of aging. Once a person reaches 50, for example, there is evidence that they are unable to learn, retain, and reference new information at the same rate as their younger days. Does this mean you’re on the road to Alzheimer’s? Of course not. Memory gaffes are common with age and although frustrating, are rarely serious or signs of thing to come.
The truth is that if you work at it, you don’t have to live with stress and frustration of memory loss. There are things you can do to improve and strengthen your memory as you age, which can save you stress, worrying, confusion, and all kinds of time as you move forward in life and years.
One of the first and easiest things to do to make sure you don’t forget is to come up with a routine. For example, always keep your television remote, keys, and glasses in the same places. Take your medications at the same time and fall into a routine where many of these little daily things require virtually no thought to remember. When you don’t have to think about the little things, you can reserve more brainpower for the important stuff.
Slowing down and paying more attention is a way that can help improve memory. Taking a little extra time to be conscious of exactly what you’re doing can allow the brain’s memory system extra time to process the information and create a lasting memory.
Paying more attention is obviously much easier when you’re performing one task at a time, so try not to multitask. Multi-tasking with an aging brain creates a greater opportunity to forget, so focusing on one thing will actually save time down the road. Distracting and noisy environments also make it difficult to retain information.
One of the best ways to keep your brain on point and your memory strong is to engage the brain. When your mind is active and not sitting idle, you’re making connections, neurons are firing,and you’re more likely to learn, retain, and reference information. Find ways to challenge your brain—like learning a new language, working on a hobby, doing crosswords, or using applications like Lumosity—to help keep an active mind.
Finally, personal engagement is a great way to get some mental stimulation. Having thought-provoking and meaningful conversation with friends, family, peer groups or anybody keeps your brain engaged. If you’re not getting enough social interaction, find places in your community or groups where you can discuss topics that are important to you.
“Two Ways to Stay Mentally Sharp,” Harvard Health Publications web site, March 20, 2014; http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/two-ways-to-stay-mentally-sharp, last accessed April 2, 2014.
“Tips to Get The Most From Your Memory,” Harvard Health Publications web site; http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/tips-to-get-the-most-from-your-memory, last accessed April 2, 2014.