Memory Plan #3: Staying Sharp (for Seniors)
Your Goals: Avoid mental decline as you age, while boosting brain power. Fight off Alzheimer’s and senility.
How to Do It: Use it or lose it! The key for seniors is staying mentally active. Continue learning new skills and information.
Play brain games to "exercise" your mind. Exercise your body, too, to boost blood flow to the brain.
Meditate to keep your focus and build brain power. Take vitamins to avoid deficiencies that can hurt your thinking ability.
The following four areas are what you should focus your time and energy on to fight mental decline.
Spend most of your time learning new things. Try socializing, interacting with new people whenever possible. Work puzzles and brain teasers on a daily basis to keep your mind sharp. The following memory skills are the most important ones for seniors:
- Brain Games – Exercising your brain with brain games should be a main strategy for you. To Do: Work puzzles, brain teasers, play chess, work crossword puzzles.
- Exercise – To Do: For 30 minutes per day, any aerobic exercise (examples: running, biking, jumping rope); Benefits: Increases oxygen to your brain, helps build new memory brain cells, improves sleep, improves mental clarity, decreases stress.
- Meditation – I highly recommend all seniors try meditation. Research shows meditation increases blood flow to your brain. It also is relaxing and calming and can increase concentration.
- Memory systems – To Do: Learn the major memory systems, and then start using them. Each memory system gives you a powerful tool for remembering specific types of information (examples: Keyword – foreign languages; Peg – short lists; Phonetic – numbers and formulas; Link – lists of any length; Loci/Journey – story plots, any grouped information); Benefits: You will spend a lot less time when memorizing, and you will retain the information a lot longer. The systems are great for combatting forgetfullness.
The areas listed below are also important strategies that can help you stay sharp. Try making as many of these lifestyle changes as you can.
- Diet – To Do: Drink at least three liters of water per day; eat a small,healthy breakfast every day; avoid “white” pastas (examples: white bread, or anything made with white flour); Benefits: Your blood sugar and energy levels will remain more even throughout the day. Blood sugar spikes are a real enemy of memory and concentration, and any food containing simple sugars will cause your energy level to crash after a couple of hours.
- Sleep – To Do #1: Create a more restful sleeping environment (examples: darken your room, block distracting noise, replace uncomfortable bedding, get treatment for allergies/sleep apnea as needed); To Do #2: Improve sleep habits (examples: increase hours of restful sleep if you are sleep deprived; set a consistent wake up/go to bed schedule; no dramatic or violent movies before bed; no eating or only light eating before bedtime); Benefits: Consolidates learning, improves concentration the next day.
- Memory vitamins - To Do: Take a multivitamin, a B-Vitamin complex, and an Omega Vitamin complex every day; Benefits: Better brain function and avoidance of sneaky vitamin deficiencies that can zap your energy and concentration.
Don’t spend much time on the following. While these areas might be helpful for some people, if your goal is to preserve your memory and brain power you should invest your time in the skills and habits above.
- Hypnosis – I think the jury is out on whether hypnosis improves memory. For now, best spend your time with the higher-priority activities.
- Brain supplements – Unless you are diagnosed with a memory disorder, you probably won’t get much benefit from the various memory supplements.
- Study skills – Unless you are going for an advanced degree, the so-called “study skills” (such as SQR3 for reading a book) probably should not be a priority.
- Study environment - Again, unless you are going back to school, your study environment is probably not relevant.
- Concentration skills – Same comment. The concentration skill that students learn when studying are less relevant for seniors.
Print and post this plan on the wall where you can see it every day!