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IUGM'S COLUMN

Wednesday February 18, 2015

IUGM'S COLUMN Memory

Are you 60, 70 or 85 years old and have noticed some changes in your ability to think and remember things? Do you feel less alert, or more easily distracted? Are the names of some people or objects harder to remember than before? Is it harder to adapt to change and new elements in your life?  Rest assured – these “inconveniences” are part of the NORMAL aging process. Most likely, you’re still able to enjoy life and function independently despite these changes. It is true, however, that the aging process may bring some frustration. Just like our body, our brain is affected by the years... Here are a few tips to help you better manage these inconveniences in your daily life. 
 

Take the time... Take YOUR time!  
As we get older our reflexes slow down, as well as our capacity to process and analyze information. This is normal – there’s no reason to be ashamed by it!  
  • Slow down; give yourself enough time to learn new information, to think before answering a question, or to act when something is expected of you.    
  • When you are reading an article in a newspaper or a magazine, try to figure out what the author wants to say. Take the time to mentally summarise the article’s most important ideas. You’ll realize that this method is very effective to better understand the text, as well as retain its information.  
  • Are you in the process a learning a new language or learning how to browse on the internet? When doing home exercises or reading your notes, go through the process in small doses: you will retain the information better if you study in four 15-minute periods, rather than in 1 hour straight.   
  • Taking your time also means allowing yourself to ask that information be repeated if you didn’t understand the first time, or to write down important information. It also means accepting “with wisdom” the signs of impatience from others. Generally speaking, you will feel more in control and less overwhelmed if you take the time to establish priorities and a routine for all your daily activities.  
 
 
Pay attention!
As we get older, we become distracted more easily, and we have more difficulty focusing on more than one thing at a time. Multitasking becomes challenging. For this reason, it may become necessary to do an extra effort and tell ourselves “I must pay attention!” regularly. Don’t forget that attention is the gateway to memory!  

  • You have surely noticed that as you get older, your concentration is stronger at certain times throughout the day. Most often, our focus is strongest in the morning. Think of adjusting your routine to carry out the most challenging activities early in the day. In addition, a quiet environment with no distractions (such as the television) is preferable for activities that require concentration, such as reading.
  • Are you trying to learn how to use your new digital camera? Go step by step, and first get acquainted with its basic functions. Do you have a hard time focusing because your mind is wandering (“I must remember to make an appointment to the dentist”)? Simply write down the ideas that “pop up” in your head immediately - you can come back to them later.  
  • To make it easier, you may also try to avoid situations where more than one task must be done at a time; for example, making dinner for guests and carrying out a conversation with them at the same time. It will be easier for you to let your guests talk amongst themselves while you cook, and join the discussion later!
  • If you tend to forget the object that you were going to get in another room, make a habit of repeating in your head the name of the object, while you walk. 
  • Are you having hearing difficulties? In such case, understanding properly what is being said may be an even greater challenge... Be vigilant! If you are wearing hearing aids, make sure that they are well-adjusted. It’s easier to memorize what you’ve heard correctly!
 
Making associations
To learn new information more easily, make an association between the new information and something that you already know.
 
For example: If you are leaving your car in a shopping mall parking lot, take 1-2 minutes to find a reference point as a guide. If you choose a sign with letters or numbers, link this new information with something that you already know. For example, let’s say that you are parked in the B section – you may think of Bernard, one of your friends. Before entering the shopping mall, take a long look at the parking lot and make a mental note of your association. This method will allow you to find your car faster and easier. To write down your grocery list more efficiently, you may decide to regroup products per category (i.e. dairy, fruits & vegetables, etc.) The fact that information has been organized increases the chances of remembering it correctly when the time comes. Another useful method for remembering information is to make an association with an image.
 

Training your memory
A simple trick to retain new information is to try to remember it many times throughout the day, with an increasing amount of time between each exercise. For example, to learn a new phone number, write it down and try to re-compose it immediately in your head. Do this step again a few seconds later; then, do it again a few minutes later, and so on...  After three of four times, chances are you’ll be able to remember the number and will have no problem when trying to call the person!
 

Looking for something? Use some reference points
Did you forget where you put your scissors? Try to remember the last time you used them. In which room were you? What were you doing? Were you sowing, or opening a cardboard box? Recollecting the circumstances may greatly help you remember the information. The same strategy may be used to remember details about information that you’ve read or heard.  
 
We will offer you more memory tips in our next issue. In the meantime, start practicing the tips given in this article...



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