Best Tips for Seniors to Boost Memory

boost memory tips

It’s not unusual for seniors to forget the little things – like where you left your keys or whether you responded to an email – and it might very well be the result of being tired or busy. As you get older, you might start to wonder if those small lapses in memory add up to something more serious. While it’s true that 40% of those over the age of 65 have some level of age-related memory loss, only 1% of those individuals actually progress to a dementia diagnosis, according to the British Medical Journal. And only one in ten have something called “mild cognitive impairment.” Though this might be a bit more severe than age-related memory loss, it doesn’t stop seniors and elderly adults from living independently[1].

In other words, the odds are very good that your lapses in memory are just that – brief lapses that could happen to anyone. But if you’re worried about cognitive impairment, remember that the National Institute on Aging offers a few guidelines on when it might be time to visit the doctor and ask about memory loss. These include:

·         Asking the same questions again and again

·         Having difficulty with following directions, such as a recipe

·         Becoming confused about people, places, and times

·         Getting lost even though you know the area well

·         Not taking care of yourself from day to day, such as abandoning typical hygiene or behaving in unsafe or dangerous ways

The best way to put away that concern is to do everything you can to boost your memory now and keep your brain sharp through the coming years. Here are some great tips for seniors to boost memory.

1.       Stay Active

Exercise gets blood flowing through the body and the brain, and that blood flow can help improve memory. Good blood flow changes the brain on a molecular level, which promotes the creation of new synapses. That makes it easier to retain memories[2].

The CDC recommends that seniors get 150 minutes of exercise each week, which breaks down to 30 minutes each day. If you can’t squeeze in a 30 minute workout every day, break up the time into 10 minute bursts of activity, such as a brisk walk or even dancing around your living room to your favorite songs.

2.       Keep Your Brain Moving

Do things every day to challenge your brain and make it work harder. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, jigsaw puzzles – anything that makes your brain work to figure something out is a good idea. Learning a musical instrument is a proven way to improve your short-term and long-term memory[3]. Play chess with friends or online. Apps on your tablet or phone can provide you with a quick game or puzzle that you can fit in while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or taking a break at work. You can also go old-school and take a book with you to read! Whatever it is that keeps your brain moving or gives you another opportunity to learn something new, do it.

3.       Get Plenty of Social Interaction

Why not put that jigsaw puzzle together with your spouse or a group of friends? Volunteering at a local organization can put you in touch with many people. Going to a weekly card game can boost your social circle. Joining a chess club introduces you to new faces while you do something mentally challenging. Going to a movie with a friend, grabbing lunch with a family member, or joining a senior center can all be great ways to get out and about with someone else. Studies have shown that social interaction with others can improve memory and set you up for better cognitive ability as you get older[4].

4.       Get Rid of Clutter

The atmosphere around you can contribute to how you perceive the world. If you are living in a cluttered home, you might lose things by setting them down in a random place and forgetting where that place was. You might start on one thing, like organizing a stack of magazines, and then lose track when you get tempted to read an interesting article in one of them. Having a neat, tidy home leads to more deliberate actions. But in addition, researchers have found that housework itself can lead to a 12% higher memory recall, which is a great boost for those who worry that their memory is suffering[5].

In addition to what clearing clutter can do for the brain, it does good things for the body as well. Besides the exercise you get while cleaning, you also get the added bonus of more protection from falls. It can be quite easy to trip over that stack of books, an errant electrical cord, a throw rug in the hallway, or even a chair that is pulled too far out from the dining room table. Avoid these problems by keeping your home neat, and consider a medical alert device as a powerful safety net. If you do happen to fall, a personal medical alarm means that help is literally at your fingertips.

5.       Talk to Yourself

Speaking to yourself as you do things throughout the day can help solidify them in your mind. As you walk through a to-do or grocery list, speak the words aloud. Hearing them in addition to reading them could be the added layer of engagement your brain needs to make the associations that trigger your memory. Even speaking to remind yourself of where you put something can help you remember it later.

Small phrases can stick in your head and remind you of things that you might otherwise forget. A great example of this is “righty tighty, lefty loosey.” It’s a phrase that pertains to tightening or loosening a screw – turn it to the right to tighten it and to the left to loosen it. If you remember the phrase, you can always remember which way to turn a screw to make putting something together much easier. Create fun phrases that make sense to you.

6.       Get Plenty of Sleep

Though the amount of sleep that’s right for you might be different from what someone else needs, the general rule of thumb is that senior adults need seven to nine hours of solid sleep each night[6]. Being well-rested helps ensure your brain is working at the optimum level.

Some tips for better sleep include:

·         Don’t eat a big meal right before bed

·         Cut back on alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime

·         Get into a routine of going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, even on the weekends

·         Keep your bedroom dark and cool

If you aren’t getting enough sleep due to insomnia or other conditions, talk with your doctor about how to tackle the issue. A lack of sleep can lead to not only issues with memory and cognition, but can also put you at a greater risk of falls. Good fall prevention can include getting the proper amount of sleep each night, but it’s also a good idea to have a safety net in case you do lose your footing. Medical alert technology is designed to help you right away in the event of an emergency, such as an accident, fall, or medical problem. Having help that is a simple button push away can provide the peace of mind you need to live more confidently.

7.       Eat Memory-Boosting Foods

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein can work wonders for your overall health. It’s also important to stick to unsaturated fats. Research reported by Harvard Health found that women who ate more red meat and other foods filled with fat scored lower on memory tests than those who ate less of those fats.

There is even a diet that is tailored specifically to brain health. Called the MIND Diet, which stands for Mediterranean – DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, this diet plan features a wealth of whole grains, vegetables, leafy greens, beans, berries, poultry, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Studies on this diet have found a 53% lower rate of Alzheimer’s among those who adhered strictly to the diet and a 35% lower rate for those who were a bit looser with following the guidelines[7].

8.       Carefully Manage Chronic Conditions

The National Council on Aging points out that 95% of those aged 65 and older have at least one chronic condition, while 80% of the have at least two. Some medical conditions, such as depression, thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, or diabetes, can lead to memory loss. But so can some drugs that might be used to treat those conditions[8]. Talk with your doctor on a regular basis and go over your prescription medications to be sure they are the right ones for you. If you have concerns about how a chronic condition might affect your memory, mention those issues and ask your doctor if cognitive testing is a good idea for your own peace of mind.

While you’re at the doctor, it’s also a good idea to go over other points about your life that might be troublesome. This could include a fall risk assessment. Speak to your doctor about the medications you’re on, the medical conditions are you dealing with, and how you feel in general. Your doctor can help you decide on aging in place solutions and other options to keep you feeling safe. It might also be a good time to look into a medical alert system with fall detection. This advanced technology can give you an addition layer of protection as well as peace of mind and heart, whether at home or on the go—and that in itself is good for your health!