Outside of people’s physical health, their memory is one of the biggest factors affecting their independence, as they get older.
This could be one of the reasons that there is a boom in memory training games and research into ways to boost memory.
The good news first. People can do many things to improve their memory.
The bad news is that there is no one “sliver bullet” to help people maintain a great memory as they get older, Professor of Aged Care Colleen Doyle says.
“Just doing one simple thing is not going to make a lot of difference. You have to do a range of things like attending to your diet, make sure you keep active,” Colleen says.
“But the good news is that all these things have great benefits to other parts of your life.”
Here’s a few tips from our experts…
There is evidence that people who keep learning new things in retirement have better memories.
“Learning things outside your comfort zone – like a new language – can be really good for you,” Professor Doyle said.
It can be anything from learning a new language, an instrument or improving existing skills like crossword puzzles or playing a game of chess.
The important thing is to keep exercising the brain.
Staying social in retirement is another great way to support your memory.
People who are part of a couple, engaged with family and have many friends perform better when their memories are tested.
So the advice here is, stay social in your retirement. Work often provides people with opportunities to socialise. Equally, retirement should give people more free time. A good investment of that time is to socialise with your friends, make new friends or join a group.
Why not consider a retirement community when you are ready to downsize. Retirement communities offer great opportunities to socialise with people enjoying a similar stage of life.
Avoid stress and anxiety
Stress negatively affects people’s memories. If you want to improve your memory, pay attention to your stress levels.
“Remaining calm and not getting too anxious can improve your memory,” Professor Doyle says.
“There’s some evidence that people who are really anxious have poorer memories, because that’s interfering with how their memories are being embedded.”
Try a memory game
Memory apps and games are very popular and can be a fun way to exercise the brain.
While researchers are still analysing just how affective they are, the good news is that these games are not doing any harm.
“There’s no doubt that if people practise a task like a memory game – no matter what age – most people will get better at that task, but will it generalise to other tasks,” Australian Catholic University Professor Peter Rendell says.
He is part of a research study that aims to answer this question. It is called MemoryTrain.
Want to help research into the memory of older people
The MemoryTrain study is seeking people aged 60 years or over to take part in a ground-breaking study into the impact of memory games on prospective memory.
Prospective memory uses the part of the brain that remembers future intentions – things like remembering appointments and when to take medication.
Participants in the study are randomly placed into one of three interactive training groups. Each group completes a different memory-training program on a computer or iPad. They can do this from the comfort of their own home over about six weeks.
They also take part in three assessment sessions – prior to training, immediately after training and three months later.
The researchers hope that in the end they will understand what does and does not work when it comes to memory training and improving prospective memory.
They still need about 80 people to take part in the study and expect to share the initial results by the end of 2018.
Participants must be 60 years or older, have English as a first language, live independently and have no medical history of brain injury or degenerative brain disease. Computer skills are not necessary.
For more information, contact the Australian Catholic University Cognition and Emotion Research Centre on 9230 8189 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org