Keeping both mind and memory sharp is vital to a full life. Anyone who has misplaced glasses or forgotten the name of a familiar person knows the agony of a memory gone AWOL. In more severe cases, a slump in our mental abilities can be a sign of dementia or other serious conditions.
As we age, all of us are at risk of experiencing a gradual decline in our cognitive abilities. However, many experts believe that people who take steps to keep their brains engaged can recharge their mental batteries and prevent or delay age-related "brain drain."
Using certain memory-enhancing techniques and regularly challenging your brain may help keep your gray matter "in the pink."
Remembering Not to Forget
Memory problems are among the most common symptoms of mental decline as people grow older. The three types of memory are short-term memory (events that happened in the past few instants), recent memory (events that occurred in the past several hours) and remote memory (events that occurred long ago).
In your 20s, brain cells begin to die off and production of certain brain-boosting chemicals starts to subside. Over time, these changes start to impact your ability to remember, particularly in terms of recent memory.
To help yourself remember, try the following:
- Write things down. The simple act of committing a note or idea to paper helps to fix it in your memory. Repeating the words aloud as you write may make you feel silly, but the payoff is even better memory retention. If your memory fails despite these measures, at least you'll still have a written note or list to remind you of what you are trying not to forget.
- Visualize. Create a visual image by drawing a picture of what you are trying to remember. Or, simply create an image of the item in your mind's eye. For example, imagine your favorite dress hanging over your car door. Doing so may help you to remember pick up your laundry from the cleaners when you walk out to your parked vehicle at the end of the workday.
- Organize. Keeping things organized in an orderly, logical fashion helps you recall important information. For example, keep your wallet and keys in the same spot on the kitchen counter every day, and you'll never have to search your home for them again. Taking a certain medication at the same time every day will keep you from forgetting to treat yourself. A small calendar tucked into your pocket or purse can be an invaluable aid to remembering appointments, phone numbers and other information.