3 Ways on How To Improve Memory
Are you or an elderly loved one struggling to recall names, recognize faces, or remember events that happened only recently? There is strong evidence to show that greater communication, particularly face-to-face conversation with family and friends, can help significantly with memory and even help to prevent dementia.
Unfortunately, many seniors struggle to see their family and friends often due to busy lives, health reasons or the tyranny of distance. Sadly, there is growing evidence from medical studies showing that loneliness and social isolation can impact gravely on quality of life and well-being. Specifically, medical studies have associated “being alone” and feelings of loneliness” with dementia & Alzheimer’s. There’s also a significant and lasting effect on blood pressure and links to poor sleep, depression and higher mortality rates. What can you do?
Retaining and recalling old memories, as well as acquiring new memories, contribute to your own happiness as well as the happiness of loved ones. In this guide, we’ll share some tips and tricks on how to improve memory health and exercise memory recall through the use of memory aids, communication techniques and assistive technology.
1. Make a Family Collage
Looking at pictures of family and friends frequently helps to keep them in your memory, reminds you of the good times you’ve shared together and encourages you to contact them. Collect and print photos of your loved one’s extended family and close friends, and place them, in a logical arrangement, into a photo frame. Display the frame prominently where it will be viewed often, to maximize the benefits.
Use photos that make them happy: Try to find pictures that include favourite possessions such as musical instruments, gifts and ornaments, and of familiar settings such as family birthday parties and Christmas dinners. This will trigger and reinforce many happy memories .
Choose happy snaps over serious poses. Research shows that smiles are contagious: A grin can lift not only your own mood, but also the moods of those around you. In fact, it is associated with a lower risk of stroke and could even lengthen our lives. The act of smiling releases neuropeptides such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate – that help fight stress and lower blood pressure.
Ward off dementia: Beneath each photo, write each person’s name and relationship to your loved one (for example, “Aunty Flo” or “Son John”) and perhaps their phone number. Reading a simple caption each time the photo is viewed will reinforce the connection between face and identity. Seeing the phone number will remind them to call and give them confidence that they will be able to call, even after an electrical fault or flat battery wipes their telephone’s speed-dial memory.
Create it digitally: It’s likely that you will find many useful photos online on the family’s social media accounts such as Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, or available to be transferred from the family’s mobile phones and tablets, computer hard drives, camera memory cards and USB sticks. For older photos, you can either scan them into your computer using a scanner or all-in-one printer-scanner, or (with a little care and attention to lighting) digitize them by photographing them using your mobile phone. After all, quality is not the primary concern. Once all the photos are transferred to one computer/tablet or mobile
phone, there are many apps that can help you arrange a small group of photos into an attractive collage, such as “Pic Collage”, “CollageMaker”, “Fotor” and “CollageIt”.
Other apps enable you to add your own captions.
Consider a digital frame: Now that the photos are ready, you can print them. Prints from cheap home printers tend to fade and discolour quickly and are actually more expensive once you take into consideration the price of the ink, so we recommend professional printing or do-it-yourself printing at your local camera shop or using an online photo service. You can use individual photo frames or, better yet, mount the prints onto a cork-board and hang your work-of-art in your loved one’s house in a place where it will be seen often. Alternatively, to save on time and print costs and to reduce the clutter of multiple photo frames, use a digital photo frame that can cycle through many photos. Digital photo frames vary in cost depending on size, ranging from $3 – $5 for a 1.5-inch keyring frame, $20 – $40 for a 7-inch slide-show model, or $100 – $200 for a 15-inch frame that can also display home video clips, play music, display date and time and even remind you to take a nap. You can even purchase an Internet photo frame that allows you to load and update photos remotely, over the Internet, from any device browser.
We have personally given our elderly parents digital photo frames containing photos without any captions. It feels so good to see them smile each time the frame displays a new happy snap, but it’s a little sad when they can’t quite place the face. Please invest the time to add a few words to each photo.
2. Increase Communication
Talk to loved ones: Communication, especially face-to-face conversation, boosts brain activity. Humans are social creatures, and loneliness is a detriment to both mental and physical health. Frequent communication, however, helps keep your brain active – through reminiscing, recalling past events and thinking about common interests — and exercises your brain’s retention and recall of memories. A recent OHSU study involving elderly people showed that only face-to-face conversation significantly and measurably increased cognitive ability, lending hope to the hundreds of million of older adults who have dementia or are worried about dementia.
Too busy to visit? These days, with busy work schedules, our own family and other commitments, it can be difficult to find quality one-to-one time to travel and visit our elderly relatives. With technology today, we can call people whenever and from wherever we want. However, nothing beats the face-to-face experience – that’s why web-based video conversation has become more and more popular, and why we are seeing the emergence of more and more social media platforms with built-in video calling. Younger people regularly use apps such as Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Viber and WeChat to see each other across state boundaries and across the globe. Unfortunately, these apps can be difficult for an elderly person who has not grown up with mobile phone and tablet apps, or someone with low vision, bad hearing or poor hand-eye coordination.
Is Video calling for everyone? Yes, these apps and devices provide a platform to get as close to family and friends as possible even when we’re miles away from home. But for those who don’t know how to use these devices or struggle because of a disability, this new way of communicating can be frustrating and impractical.
Fortunately, there are alternatives that provide greater simplicity and accessibility. The Konnekt Videophone is an example of a device and service that can help bridge this gap. Videophone uses a simple design dedicated to helping elderly people and those with a disability to use face-to-face calling. It helps the elderly to remember family and friends, communicate with them extremely easily, and even view photos shared to Videophone without having to press a single button.
Videophone provides accessibility with one-press calling using a pressure-sensitive touch-screen that even works with prosthetic limbs. An auto-answer feature enables trusted family members or nominated carers to check-in visually to monitor health or in case of an accident. Konnekt provides a full-service for the user as well as family members, including those that are interstate or overseas, to keep things running smoothly.