Feature Archive

Boost Your Memory

You're never too old.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Gary Vogin

For as long as house designer Mary Dulude can remember, she's been forgetful. Getting organized was as elusive as nailing Jell-O to a bulletin board.

She would arrive for a client meeting without the necessary paperwork. Walk away from a restaurant oblivious that she'd left her purse dangling over her chair. Lock herself out of the house not once, not twice, but five consecutive times.

Then there were those dreaded trips to the supermarket. She'd either neglect to make a list or lose it, and frantically roam the aisles unable to recall what she needed.

"My memory problems tended to revolve around errands," says Dulude, 57. "I felt just like those pictures you see after an airline crash -- I was treading water in the ocean, and all the things I needed to remember were like debris floating around me."

Then Dulude encountered Memory 101, a service at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. There, researchers custom-make solutions to maximize memory for people of all ages. Their key tool? An 8-by-10 memory notebook in which clients can carefully write everything they need to do each day, the amount of time it will take, and even post pictures and details about friends and grandchildren.

The seemingly simple technique has attracted some big-time attention -- it was featured in the summer 2000 issue of the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. And while there's no proof yet that memory notebooks help everybody, studies have shown they can relieve forgetfulness in patients recovering from severe head injuries.