The Memory Keeper

post itI just asked my husband if he pulled the pump out of the pond for the winter. He answered in the affirmative. I was relieved to realize that it was my last reminder for the day and I was free to let my mind wander without any focus until tomorrow.

Most couples have one partner who is in charge of what my husband calls the “memory department.” This is usually the spouse with the best memory, the best organizational skills or both. This spouse keeps track of the social calendar, house maintenance, doctors’ appointments etc. and makes sure all family members get to where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. As we age this responsibility becomes more difficult and requires the assistance of lists and post-its at eye level on walls, mirrors and doors. Of course, it is important to then remember to take the reminders down before guests come to avoid broadcasting your disability.

It is nice that technology now provides us with the electronic help of PDAs with alarms to alert us before we miss an appointment. But I haven’t yet found a device to deliver a name to match a familiar face, to give me the word that is on the tip of my tongue or tell me why I walked from the kitchen into my bedroom.

On the other hand, I can remember the details of events from 30 years ago with perfect clarity. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the signals from immediate stimuli are getting cross referenced to everything that has come before and getting lost in a maze of past experiences.

alarm clockIt is now an established scientific fact that to stave off dementia and improve memory you need to exercise your mind. Recommendations for keeping your mind active used to include activities like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and bridge. All three of these activities feel more like the homework I had to do when I was in school than enjoyment. I had resigned myself to enjoying myself now and paying the price later. However, if you wait long enough scientists change their minds. Now the recommendation is to get regular physical exercise (which I do) and to keep your mind active in any way especially with activities that are novel like learning a new language or trying a new skill. That is a recommendation that fits in with my philosophy of aging because I chose to do things I am interested in and it encourages me to keep growing as a person.

I was going to close with one more point on maintaining your short term memory but I have forgotten what it was.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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