Experts now know that while some specific parts of memory may decline with age, overall memory remains strong at least through the 70s. Research has shown that the average 70 year old performs as well on many memory tests as 30 percent of 20 year olds. And many older folks in their 60s and 70s score significantly better in verbal intelligence than young people.
As a person ages, memory function begins to slow, affecting different types of memory in different ways. Many of the reasons for this age-related memory loss are reversible – depression, medications, poor diet, thyroid deficiency, or substance abuse.
Age can make a person’s memory less effective, but this is generally the result of disuse rather than disease. By running through some daily mental drills – sort of like practicing scales on a piano – a person can prevent intellectual breakdown. Physical exercise, too, can help with improving and stimulating memory function.
Stimulating the brain can stop brain cells from shrinking with age; it can even lead to an increase in brain size, resulting in memory improvements. Some scientists now believe that it is possible to improve memory function by challenging themselves with active learning or by living in an enriched environment, alive with colors, sounds, sights, and smells.
The first step in boosting your memory power is to improve the health of your brain cells by stimulating your surroundings. Try a bright new shade for your walls and add colorful curtains and pictures. A fish tank will provide a soothing noise and a relaxing area of interest. Put up a bird feeder outside your window, and keep a bird handbook and a pair of binoculars on hand. You can even keep a “bird diary” to note the different species of birds you encounter. Try doing challenging jigsaw and 3D puzzles.
Developing a positive attitude is instrumental in stimulating your memory. Work on maintaining a positive attitude and stay flexible. Explore new areas, get out, and get involved with life.
Take a course to learn a new skill. It could be as simple as flower arranging, or as challenging as math. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other games will help keep your mind sharp.
If you have trouble remembering appointments or birthdays, keep these dates in a calendar and record all pertinent information.
Be sure to relax. It is always harder to remember things when we are nervous or tense. Take a few deep breaths and consciously relax your muscles.