One of our greatest fears is losing our memory. As we get older, it becomes more of a concern as we watch our older family members suffer from the onsets of dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease. We can’t help but wonder if it will happen to us. “Memory lapses can occur at any age, but we tend to get more upset by them as we get older because we fear they’re a sign of dementia, or loss of intellectual function.” (1)
It’s quite common though, with age, that our memory and cognitive function will show signs of slowing down. “Most of the fleeting memory problems that we experience with age reflect normal changes in the structure and function of the brain. These changes can slow certain cognitive processes, making it a bit harder to learn new things quickly or screen out distractions that can interfere with memory and learning.” (1)
There’s good news though! It’s possible, with some simple daily activities, to boost your memory and cognitive processes. Below we’ve put together a list of eight activities or adjustments to our daily routines that can offset the progression of memory loss.
Exercise Your Brain Everyday
There are brain “exercises” that help boost memory, concentration, and focus. Doing these can make daily tasks easier and keep your brain sharp.
Jigsaw puzzles require multiple cognitive abilities and are considered a protective factor for visuospatial cognitive aging. (3)
Playing cards can lead to greater brain volume in several regions of the brain. Experts say that a game of cards could improve memory and thinking skills! (3)
Change things up by taking a new route on the way to work or the doctor’s office, or try new ways of doing the same daily tasks. Your brain can benefit from even the simplest of changes.
Keep Learning New Skills and Concepts
Make lifelong learning a priority. Learning new things can increase your brain’s processing speed and improve memory function by continuously challenging it.
Build Your Vocabulary
“Try this cognitive-boosting activity: Keep a notebook with you when you read. Write down one unfamiliar word, then look up the definition. Try to use that word five times the next day.”(3)
Learn to Dance or a New Dance
“The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control notes that learning new dance moves can increase your brain’s processing speed and memory.” (3)
Residents at Blakeford will be familiar with our dancing staff members, Laura Anne and Kelly, who can be found tap dancing around campus! Ask them for a quick lesson on dance moves!
Listen to Music
“According to a 2017 study, listening to happy tunes helps generate more innovative solutions compared to being in silence. This means cranking up some feel-good music can help boost your creative thinking and brainpower.” (3)
Let’s face it, you’re in the right place for music! Nashville and the surrounding areas provides some of the most talented musicians around and Blakeford is lucky enough to have a fairly steady stream come to visit our residents. Whether it’s our Wellness Assistant, Hope, Blair Academy at Vanderbilt’s music students or local musician Brian Hanson, we always try to keep music as a big part of our activity calendars.
Learn a New Language
“According to numerous studies, bilingualism can contribute to better memory, improved visual-spatial skills, and higher levels of creativity. Being fluent in more than one language may also help you switch more easily between different tasks, and delay the onset of age-related mental decline.” (3)
Practice Memory Skills and Train Your Brain
When you practice memory skills, you are training your brain to increase memory performance. When learning something new, try using all your senses. For example, if you are trying a new recipe be mindful of what you smell, how it feels, tastes, or even sounds. “The more senses you use in learning something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory.” (1)
Want to remember something you just heard, read, or thought about? Repeat it out loud or write it down. That may not seem like much, but this simple reiteration exercise will increase your retention of whatever you want to recall later.
Other memory practice skills include using mnemonics or acronyms. You can also try spacing out something you are studying, by re-studying over longer periods such as once an hour, then every few hours, then every day. (1)
A great way to remember how to do something is to teach that skill to someone else. This reinforces what you’ve learned increases retention. Remember, if you train your brain on retaining new information, this will improve your memory processes.
Change Up Your Diet with Mind-Boosting Tips
Sometimes there are risk factors that no one has control over such as genetics, and some people are more predisposed to cognitive conditions that affect the brain and memory such as Alzheimer’s. In other cases, it’s possible to reduce the risk of memory impairment with simple changes to their diet. Follow these tips to boost your memory:
- Reduce sugar intake
- Avoid high-calorie diets
- Increase caffeine intake with coffee or green tea
- Eat dark chocolate
“Eating a diet high in refined sugar and fats and leading a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of memory loss. Eating a rounded, healthful diet and exercising regularly may contribute to keeping the mind sharp and reduce memory loss.” (2)
Get Moving: Add Physical Activity to Your Daily Routine
Exercise can help boost thinking and memory indirectly by improving one’s mood and reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.
Considering taking up Tai Chi. “Tai Chi helps reduce stress, enhance sleep quality, and improve memory. A 2013 study found that long-term practice could induce structural changes in the brain, resulting in an increase in brain volume.” (3)
Increase Sleep and Relaxation into Your Routine
Sleep is vital to ensure normal human cognitive performance. Not obtaining enough sleep diminishes a wide variety of cognitive functions such as attention, language, reasoning, decision making, learning, and memory.
Consider meditation! Even just five minutes a day can help “fine-tune your memory and increase your brain’s ability to process information.” (3)
Simplify Daily Routines and Get Organized
To economize your brain use, get organized. Don’t waste your precious brain energy by looking for keys or glasses, or running around to complete last-minute errands that you do regularly. “Take advantage of calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists, file folders, and address books to keep routine information accessible.” (1)
Socialize Regularly to Improve Cognitive Health
Socialization is important, not just for a better quality of life, but it can also boost your memory. The health community is in agreement that socially active people are less likely to experience signs of memory loss and dementia. “Maintaining a large social fabric may even act as a “neuroprotective” — a factor that was seriously impaired for many older people due to the health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (5)
It’s totally normal to forget things occasionally, but still, memory loss should not be taken lightly. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing memory loss, the activities above might help sharpen your memory. “Focusing on your brain health is one of the best things you can do to improve your concentration, focus, memory, and mental agility, no matter what age you are.” (3)
At Blakeford, we strive to provide services and resources to support senior living lifestyles. You can read more articles like this on our blog.
Blakeford is a local, established, nonprofit provider of quality senior lifestyle solutions and health services to senior adults that encourage independence, individuality, and privacy while creating both economic value and life enrichment opportunities for all those we serve. Learn more about us and what we offer today!
1. Harvard Health Publishing. “7 ways to keep your memory sharp at any age”. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-keep-your-memory-sharp-at-any-age. 2020, 30 Mar.
2. Johnson, J. “How to improve your memory: 8 techniques to try”. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326068. 2019, 15 Aug.
3. Lindberg, S. “13 Brain Exercises to Help Keep You Mentally Sharp”. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/brain-exercises. 2019, 7 Aug.
4. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory”. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046518. 2021, 10 Mar.
5.Selz, G. “Friends with Benefits: Socializing to Fight Alzheimer’s”. Brain World. https://brainworldmagazine.com/friends-with-benefits-socializing-to-fight-alzheimers/. 2021, 3 Jun.