WIth the busy lives people lead these days, there can be huge amounts of information which they want to be able to remember. This can range from trivia to discuss with friends and colleagues – the score of last evening’s match, or the name of an actor in a film – to important points such as when the next meeting is, the contact details for the plumber, or where to find the car in the parking lot.
Forgetfulness can be a nuisance at any age. Attempts to make light of it can cause amusement (“I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on”, “Oops, senior moment”), but it’s certainly not funny for the person who is frustrated by a lapse of memory.
The Memory Curve Through Life
Efficient remembering could be considered broadly to follow the famous bell-shaped curve. In infancy there may be little recall – although the sight, sound and smell of the mother or main carer quickly become recognised and are obviously remembered.
Young children soon forget events such as a grazed knee, their plea for a puppy, or a tantrum in a store. After that, though, memory becomes more efficient. For example, a ten-year-old, desperate for that puppy, may keep up the pressure almost indefinitely if there has been the tiniest hint that it might be considered.
In the teens, keen drama pupils learn and perform lengthy speeches for school plays; studying for exams is largely about memory, and some schools teach memory skills as a study aid. A single unthinking comment by someone else may never be forgotten, such as a casual derogatory remark about a teenager’s weight or looks.
From, say, their sixties, people’s memory can become vulnerable – this happens routinely outside conditions such as dementia. It’s well understood that remaining physically active, solving puzzles, a good diet, reading, and socialising can all help to keep memory working efficiently.
But there are still individual instances when it can fail, and strategies for resolving most of these involve visualisation with movement, association, or humour.
Where Memory Might Slip, and How To Keep Hold Of It
Names of people met briefly can be a sticking point. This is resolved with a visual link to something familiar. For example, if the person is called George, his face could be observed, and then imagined as morphing into George Clooney – movement and amusement factors are both involved.
If it’s a surname, there could still be a visual association – the name Pye is easily remembered by imagining pushing a pie into the face of the person concerned. For a more complex name, such as Pinfold, the visual tag might be picturing the person’s skirt, jacket, or trouser hems folded into pleats fixed with masses of pins which make it hard for them to walk. On next meeting these people, the visual prompt should be sufficient.
An alternative is repetition – in a conversation with somebody new, their name should be repeated often. This helps to fix it in the mind.
Remembering to do something can be important. If a promise was made to phone a friend before leaving the house, an old-fashioned telephone, perhaps bright red, could be imagined dangling in the doorway so that it would have to be moved to open the door. If eggs are needed but did not get on the shopping list, on getting out of the car or entering the store, a big tray of eggs could be pictured placed so that they have to be trodden on.
“What did I come in here for?” is a common frustration. It could help to keep imagining carrying the wanted item (in very large, heavy form) in the arms from the start. Otherwise muttering a two-word rhyme repeatedly – if it’s a bag, then ‘mag-bag’ – might work.
“Where did I put it?” suggests that the act of putting something down needs to be memorised at the time. An imaginary video could be stored in the mind, picturing the action. When the object is needed, recalling the video may be easier than simply the place.
When a car is parked among others, it is easy to forget to store its location. If it’s multistorey, there should be a reference, usually floor number and section letter. This should be written down where it can easily be retrieved. Before leaving the car, it is a good idea to stand between the car and the exit, and note the distant view behind the car, e.g. supermarket roof, church spire, or crane. On leaving the parking lot, note which exit was used. On returning by the same exit door to the correct floor, and standing facing the remembered view and walking ahead, the car should be easily found.
Lapses of memory can be really frustrating and embarrassing. Regularly adopting all or some of these methods can prevent lapses in vulnerable situations, making for better efficiency and more self confidence.