Memory in Retirement

May 27, 2010

It is a fact: the older you get, there more there is to remember (if you are 60 it is at least three times as much as a 20 year old).  To carry this heavy load, you need to work at it, and it is not that hard to do once you “set your mind to it.”

As we age, research tells us it is normal for us to require more effort to learn new things, to multitask and to summon up names and vocabulary.  Absent illness or injury, our memory of how to perform tasks and our general knowledge remain unimpaired.  It also appears to be true that our ability to reason remains healthy and the wisdom gained from decades of experience certainly enables us to make better decisions than when all those raging hormones got in the way.

So, absent illness or injury, while our mental skills may slow some, there is no reason to fear “losing it” if we keep them our minds engaged.  What actions can we take to keep our memory functioning effectively?

“Use it or lose it” applies to our minds as well as our bodies.  Studies have shown that our mental skills can be kept in shape through activities that keep our minds active and which challenge us to think in new ways.  Learning a new language or music theory, or how to play a musical instrument have all been shown to be very helpful.

Try doing things with your left hand that you would normally do with your right (if you are right-handed) and vice versa.  (Brushing your teeth is an interesting place to start; shaving is not).

Solving puzzles such as crossword, jigsaw, sudoku; playing board and card games, especially if you vary the games you play and take the time to learn new ones; participating in athletic activities, dancing, reading, improving your computer skills, socializing, can all be helpful.

Take good care of yourself physically.  Don’t smoke.  Be moderate in your use of alcohol.  Stay physically active – what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

Be organized.  If you have a place for everything (like keys) and put things in their places they are a lot easier to find.

Keep and use a calendar.

When you meet new people, repeat their names and try to find a way to associate their names with their faces or physiques.

If you are going to be visiting with a group of people you know, review their names and the last time you saw them before the visit.

If you can’t remember something right away, relax (tension gets in the way), focus (no multitasking) and concentrate.

The existence of forgetting has never been proved:  We only know that some things don’t come to mind when we want them. – Friedrich Nietzsche

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2010 R.K. Price