Best Ways to Keep Memory Strong as We Age
It happens to all of us. Maybe you walked into a room and forgot why you came in there in the first place. Perhaps you aren't sure of a password you use all the time. While it's certainly frustrating, memory problems aren't always a cause for concern. However, in some cases, memory loss in elderly adults may be a sign of something more serious.
If you feel less confident of your memory or mental understanding, it's worth discussing these concerns with your doctor. In the meantime, there are some things you can do on your own to keep your brain engaged and active. Here's how to keep memory sharp in old age.
1. Learn more
Even if you never considered yourself a studious person, now is the right time to learn new information. As noted by Harvard Health, mental activity and critical thinking can promote brain health and liven up your brain cells. If you recently left a job or hobby that required you to use your noggin, consider doing something that helps you exercise your mind.
Anything from crossword puzzles to challenging card games can do the trick. Other ideas include picking up a new skill, like painting or playing the guitar. If it requires you to concentrate on new information, it's fair game. Make it a habit to do these brain exercises for memory so that you do even a little of it every day.
2. Stay positive
Have you heard from those around that older people are forgetful or unreliable? It may be time to surround yourself with someone more upbeat. There's a connection between how confident an older person is in their memory and how well they remember things, which means that your attitude can play a big role in brain function. If you don't believe in yourself, now is the time to start.
3. Engage your senses
You may be accustomed to the same body wash or spices in your food because you find them comforting and familiar. But when you stretch your senses to pick up new odors or smells, you can work your brain in new ways that may lead to better memory.
Studies show that parts of the brain that recognize and process new sensory experiences can become "active" under some circumstances. Whether you taste a new dish or try some new music, giving your five senses, a workout can have long-term benefits.
4. Make space for what matters
What if you could not only learn how to improve memory but make better use of the memory you have? That's the answer to finding your keys and remembering the small things you could easily forget each day. When you use tricks to remember the small, everyday things, you have more room in your brain for new or more complicated tasks.
You can simplify this by putting your keys in a special bowl near the door, using a remote finder gadget, or setting alarms for when it's time to take your medication. Use any devices you can to remember those small, common things so you can save your brainpower for more difficult tasks.
5. Put it on repeat
One of the better ways to remember new information is to say it out loud, again and again. When you meet someone for the first time, repeat their name and then use it again in a sentence. You can even write it down soon after leaving so that you have it nearby when you want to recall it.
In addition to repeating things, you may find mnemonic devices helpful. What are these? By calling out each of the first letters in a series of words, then forming a rhyme or phrase for them, you can remember the words in the series better. One example is the FAST moniker for recognizing a possible stroke (face-dropping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911) and the RICE key to healing a sprain (rest, ice, compression, elevation).
6. Consider video games
While studies on how technology affects memory have only been done more recently, the data is hard to ignore. In a 2020 study where older adults were asked to play three types of video games, the two groups that played games with "novel" environments showed more real-world memory advantages than those that played games like computer Solitaire.
Even more impressive was how those in the study continued to show benefits even after they stopped playing. After two weeks of consistent gameplay in a rich, 3D environment, they continued to experience memory benefits compared to those who didn't.
This should give older adults a reason to consider taking up gaming at least as a hobby and a way to connect with younger family members, too. These may be the most exciting memory games for the elderly you can find!
7. Keep health in mind
Some memory issues may be temporary or caused by a change in your health. While a doctor can assist in determining the reason, it's always wise to do what you can at home to be at your best. From getting enough sleep to staying hydrated, there are many health hacks you can use to keep your brain in tip-top shape.
This includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, nuts, fish, and healthy fats. While some foods are credited for helping you focus, it's more important that you eat enough good foods and not concentrate too much on any one food type or category. Since appetite and dental issues can often keep older adults from consuming enough good foods, simply working on getting a balanced meal can go a long way to fueling your brain.
What's normal memory loss?
You may be wondering how to prevent memory loss in old age, but the fact is that some forgetfulness is just part of being human. The National Institute on Aging states that your brain will change as you age, and some things, like forgetting where you put your glasses or taking longer to learn new things, can be expected.
However, if you lose track of the month or year, have difficulties carrying on typical conversations, or consistently miss bill due dates, these may be signs of an issue like Alzheimer's. In this case, you should discuss these issues with your health practitioner.
Signs you shouldn't ignore
Memory loss may also be caused by emotional stress, changes in medication, or a serious medical condition (blood clots, a vitamin deficiency, alcoholism, or a fall). No matter the cause, don't try to handle sudden changes in memory on your own.
Some of the more serious health conditions can create dangerous situations if left untreated, and memory loss may be one of the first signs of something being wrong. An example of this is hyponatremia, a condition where your sodium levels get too low. While it can usually be corrected, sudden confusion or memory loss is a key symptom. If you don't feel yourself or your friends and family are concerned about your health, consider seeing your physician.
With adults living longer than ever, it's understandable that you may worry about lasting longer than your memory. Just taking small steps toward better health, exercise, diet, and learning can make a big difference. Consider joining up with a friend to make the journey more rewarding.