Memory Exercises That Work

Memory strategies are known to everyone who has ever learned the alphabet, a poem, or prepared for a test in school. By refreshing one's use of common memory strategies older adults can work wonders in offsetting normal age- associated memory skill loss. These memory skill strategies, discussed here in greater detail, include:

1. PAY ATTENTION

Sometimes the reaction to a frustrating search for your glasses is - "There I go again, my memory is slipping." Your memory ability may be just fine. The problem may be not paying attention. The simple step of developing a habit of actively paying attention can save much frustration.

Example: Perhaps you have had to search for your car keys, been in doubt as to whether or not you took your morning medication correctly, or found yourself in a room wondering what you came searching for?

Memory exercise: Pay attention - stop - look - listen. It takes no more than a second to say, "I am putting the keys in my jacket pocket."

2. REHEARSE - REPEAT

Information must be rehearsed to be placed properly in long-term memory.

Example: You are in the shower and get an idea you wish to discuss with your spouse. You can't make a note, and you don't want that great new idea to slip away. What to do?

Memory exercise: You must rehearse ( repeat to yourself) your idea to talk to your spouse. You may forget if you used shampoo and a conditioner, but you'll remember your new idea.

3. CHUNK

This is a rehearsal strategy.

Most people have the ability to remember short lists, such as in a phone number, if they group - or chunk - the list items.

Example: Chunking to remembering a ten digit phone number.

Memory exercise: Chunking will aid working memory. A 10- digit number 3013661755 can be remembered easily as 301 366 1755. Three (3) chunks not ten (10).

4. USE CUES

There are two strategies that can be used here. Visual elaboration is simply creating a mental snapshot to help enhance a memory.

Example: You are away from home and think of a phone call you should make when you return home.

Memory exercise: In addition to rehearsal, to remember to make the call when you return home you create a visual image. The visual image should be associated with a very familiar object. You may visualize a telephone hanging on your front door. Result, when you return home, the sight of your front door reminds you of the telephone and the need to make the call.

The other option is verbal elaboration, which is a simple and effective memory exercise for conceptual and abstract information. A reminder of some of the verbal elaborations you have been using throughout your life include: Acronyms, word associations, and rhymes.

HOMES - Remember the great lakes? Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior IRS and PTA. Do you really need to be reminded?

SPRING FORWARD, FALL BACK - Reset your clock twice a year.

THIRTY DAYS HAS SEPTEMBER - rhymes work.

Example of verbal elaboration: You want a simple way to remember your PIN number (personal identification number) for your bank card, your credit card, and your telephone credit card.

You are advised to keep that number in a safe and secret place. The best place is in your memory.

Memory exercise: Change the numbers into letters that correspond to their location on a telephone or ATM (automatic teller machine) keypad, e.g., ABCD = 2223. You can use any four letter name or word; John = 5646 and blue = 2583

5. GET ORGANIZED

Once you have fixed locations for all medications, important phone numbers, valuable papers, useful tools, and keys, wallets, and glasses you will minimize the frustrating searches for a misplaced item.

Example: Proper organization for placement and use of medications requires careful thought. Individuals often take medications for different needs, at different times, in different locations.

Memory exercise: List your medication needs by time and place to be taken. Medications taken before, with, or after meals are usually stored in the kitchen. You must also plan for times you do not eat at home. Other medications, for example, eye drops, lotions and ointments located in other places in your home must be organized as well.

6. MIND YOUR P Q R S T

P Q R S T is a five step memory and learning exercise designed to organize text material written with too much "fine print." Examples include, using an ATM machine, programming a VCR, reading a new insurance policy, or understanding the regulations of your IRA, the new Roth IRA account, or a pension fund.

"P" refers to preview, to skim the text to identify the main points.

"Q" suggests that you create questions that identify the essential points you want to learn.