Keen to improve your memory? It might be as simple as ABC, expert explains…


Losing keys, forgetting names and not remembering important information for work or study?

Many of us have first-hand experience with the frustrations of memory lapses, and it’s not unusual to be concerned that they are a sign of something sinister. But Professor Kaarin Anstey says most memory lapses are a normal part of the ageing process.

Take the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, that frustrating feeling where you know a word or name or movie title is in your memory, but you just can’t recall it.

“From your 40s onwards, people do start to experience that and that is actually normal, it’s not a sign of Alzheimer’s,” Professor Anstey said.

“Most of those tip-of-the-tongue instances resolve themselves within 24 hours; something like 95 per cent of the time you will remember the word.

“People may joke about it being a senior moment but they are very common and everyone experiences them, and that does occur more as you get older.”

In the same way that ageing means changes to other parts of your body, your brain physically changes as you age. Some of these brain changes will affect your memory.

“We can see on brain scans that there is gradual brain atrophy over time. We know that there’s shrinkage of some cells and the loss of some cells,” says Professor Anstey, the director at the Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing at the Australian National University.

When you combine these changes to your brain with other age-related issues, being more prone to getting distracted and having slower reaction times, it’s easy to see how our memory can start to fail us as we age.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to improve your memory. The following tips may help you boost your capacity for recall.

Pay attention and avoid distractions

One reason we forget things is that we never fully processed them into our memory in the first place. To encode a long-term memory in your brain, you need to actively attend to the information.

“When you are introduced to new people, make an effort to remember their name and associate it with something. Rehearse it in your own mind,” Professor Anstey says.

Sometimes, simply reminding yourself to focus on the task at hand — say meeting someone new and learning their name — is all that’s needed.

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However, stating what you’re doing out loud can also help memory, for example, “I’m putting my glasses on the kitchen table”.

If you’re trying to process more complex information, try minimising distractions like television or phone calls

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