Our bodies undergo lots of changes as we age, and the brain is no exception. Memory loss can be one of the scarier aspects of growing older, and occasionally forgetting minor things can spark all kinds of worries. However, forgetfulness is perfectly normal and is no cause for alarm. For example, fewer than two per cent of people are living with dementia in Australia according to Alzheimer's Australia, suggesting this is not a very common condition. However, research by the American Physiological Association (APA) suggests some types of memory, such as episodic memory, do decline over time. Here are some tips to help you keep your brain engaged so you can live a full, healthy, independent lifestyle.
The APA suggests using mnemonic strategies to remember facts. This is the practise of associating facts with something you create in order to retain the memory. A popular example of this is using a clever sentence to remember the colours of the rainbow – Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain.
Another popular mental trick is to tag what you need to remember. Tagging mentally places an item at a specific location inside your house, or somewhere familiar. This is a great way to remember your shopping list – picture the groceries you need sitting around your house, like a bottle of milk on the kitchen counter or some fruit on the table. Next visit the supermarket and visualise these locations so you can see what you need to purchase.
The American Academy of Neurology has found that walking regularly can increase the amount of grey matter in your brain, and can potentially halve memory loss. It also encourages the development of new brain cells and can reduce stress, depression and the risk of diabetes.
The brain is like any other muscle in your body – you need to keep it stimulated or it will diminish. Frequently challenging yourself with difficult books, puzzles and other thought-based activities will flex your brain and keep it running. Being actively social is also a great way to keep your brain in tip-top shape, so make sure to partake in group activities within your retirement community.
One of the easiest ways to remember your tasks for the day is to write them down and put the note where you'll see it. Grocery lists, phone calls you need to make, even friends you have agreed to meet up with – posting notes on your fridge, desk, or anywhere else you might easily find them will keep these tasks front of mind.