Our memory peaks in our 20s and 30s and slowly begins to decline after that. Memory lapses, like losing your keys, arriving at the grocery shop and forgetting what you were supposed to get, trouble remembering where you left your car in the parking lot, or forgetting the name of the person you were introduced to five minutes ago, are common and even normal for adults going into their fourth or fifth decade.
These are episodic memories, which capture the ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘when’ of our daily lives and decline normally with age. Other functions which slow down somewhat include our capacities for learning something new, and shifting focus from one activity to another.
But the ability to recall concepts and general facts or vocabulary and language skills, which fall under semantic memory continue to improve for many older adults.
The human brain works on a ‘use it or lose it’ principle. The more you give your brain a workout, the better you are able to process and remember information. Try some of these.
Brain Gym: Find several brain exercises that you enjoy, and make them a habit. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, lateral thinking puzzles, and even good riddles are a great way to get brain exercise.
Physical Gym: Physical activities and exercise, such as brisk walking, help boost and maintain brain function.
Neurobics: The term was invented by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin to describe exercises especially designed to keep the brain sharp. The belief is that unusual sensory stimulation breaks the auto-pilot mode that the brain slips into with routine actions and thoughts. Breaking that mould releases certain chemicals that encourage growth of new dendrites and neurons in the brain.
Use your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways to break out of your everyday routines and stimulate your brain. Don’t use the sense you normally use, but rely on other senses to do an ordinary task. Here are a few ways you can go off-beat.
Get dressed for work or take a shower with your eyes closed.
Identify food on your plate only by smell, taste and touch.
Combine senses in unexpected ways – listen to music while smelling a particular aroma.
Take a completely different route to work.
Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, get dressed, etc.
Prepare a meal from another country. Continue to learn new things throughout your life to keep your brain healthy. As we age, we know more, and improve on how to use what we know. Remember, we can get better as we get older!