Memory improvement tips for older learners

by M.R. Chaganty
(Kakinada (AP), India)

I am a retired Superintendent from R&B Department of Andhra Pradesh. After one year of my retirement, I have passed the Pre-recruitment examination to seek Life Insurance Licence, and have taken up the profession of a Life insurance agent.

Later, in January 2010 I have passed the Pre-recruitment examination to obtain General Insurance Licence and scored 93%. Now I am representing THREE insurance companies in Life, Health, and General. Now I wish to appear for M.Sc (Psychology) from Open University through distant education media.

Of late, I often experience a little difficulty in recollecting the names of my clients, the names of insurance products I sold to them, etc. Thus, I am afraid whether I can continue my studies for post-graduation in Psychology which comprises so many names of psychologists, and their theories, experiments etc. Yet, I am ambitious to be a post-graduate in Psychology and also in English (Literature) of Andhra University.

Would you Please suggest me a few tips suitable for me at this age of 65 years, to improve my memory levels?

With regards,

Doug's Reply. In my opinion, there are three areas you should work on if you want to strengthen your memory significantly. In order of priority:
  • Memory Skills

  • Organizational Skills

  • Brain Health

The most important memory skills for basic memorization are the "memory systems". The foundation for most of these systems is the visualization-association memory method.

With the visualization-association method, you create memorable images in your mind that are tied to the information you want to remember. For a simple example, go to my U.S. State Capitals Quiz page, and scroll down to the State Capitals Memorization Tip section.

Properly created mental images act as powerful hooks that help you retrieve information from your memory. Even the process of creating the images helps your memory, because doing so requires you to focus on the information more intently than you ever could otherwise.

The memory system to use for remembering the names of clients is the Face-Name system. The Face-Name system is a five-step process to follow whenever you meet someone new: 1) Get the Name; 2) Make the Name Concrete; 3) Find a Face Feature; 4) Associate the Name and Face; 5) Renew the Association.

To remember which products you sold to a particular customer, use the visualization-association method plus other appropriate memory systems such as the Peg Method to link their last name with the product list.

For example, suppose the customer's last name is Harrington. For your memorable image hook for Harrington, imagine "a harry town" (vividly imagine a town or village where the building are constructed of hair). Then link the harry town to the first peg of your Peg Method list.

To memorize general information such as that required for your Masters in Psychology, use the Peg Method, Link Method, Keyword
, and Journey Method. To memorize numbers, use the Phonetic Number Method.

I also recommend that you use the Best Study Skills during your actual study sessions.

As you can see, there is not one single memory technique for all situations. For that reason, I suggest you take some time for the next few weeks to learn and practice each of the techniques I mentioned above. They all work extremely well, but they only work if you master the use of them through practice.

If you want a book that explains these techniques with lots of examples, obtain a copy of The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne.
Next, take a hard look at your organizational skills. If you have a large client base and a busy schedule, you will be much better off if you stay organized.

This means having an organized filing system for your client records, using a "day planner" book to plan your activities for the day and upcoming days, an address book for client numbers and addresses, etc. Take a look at the organizational tools in my Brainy Bookstore for some ideas on which tools are most helpful. (Click the "Organizational Tools" link on the right side of the store.)

Finally, maximize the health of your brain. You can do this by:
  • Healthy Diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water, eat more brain foods, stay away from sugary snacks and desserts.

  • Restful Sleep. Make sure you are getting sufficient restful sleep at night. Examine your sleeping situation and make improvements if possible. For example, if your mattress is old and uncomfortable, invest in a new one.

  • Aerobic Exercise. Exercise aerobically for at least 10 minutes every day. Walking, biking, jogging, jumping rope, etc. are all good activities. Aerobic exercise helps bring oxygen and healthy nutrients to your brain.

  • Meditation. Mindfulness meditation is said to increase concentration and clarity.

  • Vitamins. Take a multivitamin each day with meals. This will help eliminate vitamin deficiencies in case your diet is not perfect. There are also other supplements you can take that may improve memory.

  • Brain Games. Playing brain games improves concentration and memory. There are over 100 free brain games on my website. I also recommend Lumosity online brain training, as their games are the most scientific.

In addition to the tips above, take a look at my Banishing Forgetfulness, Improve Your Concentration, and Quick Memory Tips pages. Some of the ideas on those pages may also be useful to you.

To be clear: the memory systems are the most powerful path to a strong memory. All the other suggestions above will help as well, but learning and using the powerful memory techniques I described is the key to a strong memory.

I am impressed by the ambitious goals you have set for yourself. Best of luck to you in all your endeavors.


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