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Normal age-related changes in the brain tend to slow some of our cognitive processes, making it harder to learn new things and easier to get distracted. It can also represent a loss of self as our memories make-up an internal biography of things we have done, people we love, and much more.

As a result, much research has been done on ways people, both young and old, can sharpen their minds.

From Harvard Health Publications here are a few research proven tips for a better memory:

1. Economize your brain use

Take advantage of calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists, file folders, and address books to keep routine information accessible. Designate a place at home for your glasses, keys, and other items you use frequently

2. Organize your thoughts

New information that’s broken into smaller chunks, such as the hyphenated sections of a phone or social security number, is easier to remember than a single long list, such as financial account numbers or the name of everyone in a classroom.

3. Use all your senses

The more senses you use when you learn something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory. For example, odours are famous for conjuring memories from the distant past, especially those with strong emotional content, such as visits to a cookie-baking grandparent.

4. Repeat after me

When you want to remember something you have just heard or thought about, repeat it out loud. For example, if you’ve just been told someone’s name, use it when you speak with him or her: “So John, where did you meet Paul?”

5. Space it out

Instead of repeating something many times in a short period, as if you were cramming for an exam, re-study the essentials after increasingly longer periods of time — once an hour, then every few hours, then every day. Spacing out periods of study is particularly valuable when you are trying to master complicated information

6. Make a mnemonic

Mnemonic devices are creative ways to remember lists. They can take the form of acronyms — such as the classic “Every good boy does fine,” to remember the musical notes E, G, B, D, and F on the lines of the treble clef. For older learners, a particularly helpful system is a story mnemonic — that is, a brief narrative in which each item cues you to remember the next one

7. Challenge Yourself

Engaging in activities that require you to concentrate and tax your memory will help you maintain skills as you age. Discuss books, do crossword puzzles, try new recipes, travel, and undertake projects or hobbies that require skills you aren’t familiar or comfortable with.

Adapted from Harvard Health Publications by Ladipo Eso

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