Whether you call it a “senior moment” or a “mind glitch,” the truth is that as we get older our memory and thought processes are just not what they used to be. A friend of mind claims that for the past ten years she hasn’t remembered the name of any new person she met. Another describes those frequent moments when the word is right on the tip of your tongue but for the life of you it just won’t materialize. Still another says her memory has gotten so rusty lately that her kids take advantage of it, sometimes having her believing that she approved an expenditure, when she can’t even remember them asking about it!
Just as daily weight repetitions in the gym strengthen certain muscle groups, mental exercises strengthen and enhance memory and thought functions over time. The following are some exercises you can use to increase your memory fitness:
Do crossword puzzles and brainteasers on a regular basis.
Play games that use memory like chess, bridge, or Trivial Pursuit.
Memorize your shopping list by visualizing your trip through the supermarket. See yourself stop at each aisle putting what you need in your cart. When you get to the store, use your memory to select the items. Bring a written list along to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Each time you come to the end of a chapter in a book you are reading, imagine yourself summarizing it as briefly as possible to someone who has not read it. Do the same for the whole book when you finish it.
Link together items that you need to remember into story form. If you need to do errands that include going to the hardware store, the dry cleaners, and the post office, your story might be: You get grease on your clothes at the hardware store so you must go to the dry cleaners. While at the dry cleaners you find an envelope in your pocket that needs to be mailed.
When meeting someone for the first time, repeat her name as you are introduced. Ask a question about the spelling (is that Ann with an E at the end?) Find a distinctive feature about the person and picture it with the spelling of the person’s name. Associate the name with a song, a rhyme, or a celebrity (Example: if you meet someone named Marilyn, associate the person with Marilyn Monroe.)
Along with aging, memory loss is often the result of chronic stress. If you are going through a particularly stressful time in your life, you will most likely experience difficulty in remembering things. Try the following to help with the forgetfulness caused by stress:
Put your keys in the same place in your purse and leave them in the same place when you enter your house.
Try to park in the same place when using parking lots you frequent regularly.
Keep a small notepad handy and write down things you know you need to remember.
Purchase a small digital recorder or use the voice recording feature on your cell phone to record things that occur to you while away from home.
Use timers to remind you of appointments and when you need to take medication.
If you take more than one medicine a day, purchase a pill reminder box and use it so that you will not have to guess whether you’ve taken your medication or not.
Sometimes memory loss is just a symptom of a too busy life but it also can alert us to a problem in the brain. Most of us have at one time or another worried that we had early Alzheimer’s Disease. If you are concerned whether your forgetfulness has an organic cause you may want to read Understanding Memory Loss, an online booklet by the National Institute on Aging that can help you figure out whether you should seek an evaluation. Put the title of the booklet in your search engine to find it.
When you cannot remember something, it often makes you feel anxious or stressed. Good self care for you may include improving your memory. Using memory exercises, finding stress reducing strategies that work for you, and educating yourself about what is normal and what is abnormal memory loss can help. Of course, you have to remember to do them!
If you are having difficulty remembering things, it may be due to stress, anxiety, or depression. Life is challenging and when we are challenged we forget things. Besides the exercises above, you may want to visit a qualified mental health professional for help.