By age 60, more than half of adults begin to forget things. You may find that your brain isn’t as efficient as it used to be. It’s harder to focus, to learn new things and to remember what you’ve learned. Why is that?
The reasons your memory gets worse
Minor memory lapses aren’t usually signs of a serious problems like dementia or aphasia. They’re simply part of normal changes in the structure and function of the brain. Just as your muscles weaken, so does your mind. Remember that medications can also affect your memory. Anti-anxiety drugs and sedating medications can cause forgetfulness. So does lack of sleep. You’ll probably notice that restful sleep helps improve your memory.
Exercises to improve your memory
The good news is that the brain is able to make up for memory loss that comes with age. Think of a gym workout. If you’re generally healthy and you work on your bicep muscles regularly, you’ll build them up. The same goes for your brain. The ability to strengthen a healthy, older brain is known as plasticity. The bad news is that it takes work to achieve this brain growth.
Before you work on improving your memory, remember that an older brain is more susceptible to the noise and distraction that fills your day. There’s noise around you. You may be in pain. You may be dealing with hearing and vision loss. All these stresses are distracting. So if you want to improve your memory, learn to limit distractions and pay attention.
Tips to improve your memory
- Create memory cues. Use objects to remind you to do something else. Put the cat’s food on the table in the evening to remind you to feed her in the morning.
- Categorize things. Organize larger amounts of information into smaller bits. Don’t try to remember your entire shopping list. Instead, divide the items into types of food that you need to buy: vegetables, fruit, cleaning materials, dairy, meats.
- Stick to a routine. Leave your glasses on your bedside table…always.
- Repeat someone’s name. When you meet a new person, call him by name at least twice when you are talking to him.
- Create associations. When you see Sandra, note the color of her eyes. Remind yourself that Sandra has brown eyes.
- Use notes. Don’t assume you’ll remember things. Note things down in a pocket notebook. By writing down the information, you’re more likely to remember it. And if you don’t…you’ll find it in your notebook.
- Make the most of technology. Learn how to use the calendar and reminder tools in smartphones or tablets. Alternatively, use a recorder to make verbal messages for yourself.
- Physical exercise. Take regular walks or join a senior’s exercise class. Physical stimulation is the best way to make the neurons in your brain grow and to make the synapses between them connect.