Our memories are an integral part of who we are, but as we age our memory declines. For many older adults, the decline becomes so serious that they’re no longer able to live independently, which is one of the biggest fears Trusted Source adults have as they age.
The good news is that scientists have been learning more about our brain’s amazing capacity to change and grow new neural connections each day, even in old age.To take full advantage of neuroplasticity, you’ll need to exercise your brain and take care of your body.
Memory strength is just like muscular strength. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. But you can’t lift the same size weight every day and expect to get stronger. You’ll need to keep your brain constantly challenged. Learning a new skill is an excellent way to strengthen your brain’s memory capacity.
There are many activities to choose from, but most importantly, you’ll need to find something that forces you out of your comfort zone and commands your full attention.
Here are some examples:
- learn a new instrument
- make pottery
- play mind games, like Sudoku or chess
- learn a new type of dance, like the tango
- learn a new language
Any time you learn a new piece of information, you’re more likely to mentally record that information if it’s repeated.
Repetition reinforces the connections we create between neurons. Repeat what you hear out loud. Try using it in a sentence. Write it down and read it aloud.
But the work doesn’t stop there. Research shows that simple repetition is an ineffective learning tool if used on its own. You’ll need to sit back down later and actively try to retrieve the information without looking at where you wrote it down. Testing yourself to retrieve the information is better than repeated studying. Practicing retrieval creates more long-term and meaningful learning experiences.
A busy schedule can maintain your brain’s episodic memory. One study linked busy schedules to better cognitive function. This study, however, was limited by self-reporting.