10 min read

Simple memory tips for over 50s

Have you ever misplaced your car keys or forgotten where you put your mobile phone? We all experience the occasional brain freeze from time to time, but with working memory and attention typically declining with age, the fear of forgetfulness is a much bigger health niggle for those of us over 50.

Older lady sitting at the dinner table, reading a newspaper.

Improving your memory doesn’t have to require mass amounts of brain training though. By figuring out how to organise your thoughts, you can sharpen it really easily. We’ve rounded up some tips and tricks to improve your memory skills.

Memory block 1: “What the heck is my account number?”

If you can’t remember your account number or other important codes, chunk the numbers together into manageable blocks. Remembering 120 1991 210 is much easier than trying to recite 1201991210.

To make sure the numbers stick, try to spot patterns. For example you could look at 120 as a sum so 1+2+0=3, which is pretty straightforward. And 1991 as a date – can you remember something that happened that year? You could also practice punching the numbers in on a calculator to make sure your brain makes a mental note of them.

Memory block 2: “What else do I need to do today?”

Use your imagination to visualise quirky images associated with hard-to-remember facts. Then link these images together to create a story in your head. Your brain works in a visual state anyway, so it will find it easier to latch on to visual references rather than words.

A shopping list is a great way of testing this theory. If you’re about to go on a shopping trip and need to remember to buy apples, imagine yourself picking apples in an orchard. If eggs are also on the list, you could imagine that after picking apples a chicken lays eggs on top of them. Letting your imagination run wild will help you to absorb the information.

Memory block 3: “Why can’t I remember their name?”

Drawing a blank on someone’s name after meeting them more than once is a common situation we all find ourselves in. A simple way to remember a name is to repeat the name over and over in your head. If that doesn’t work, try to make a memorable connection by associating something they’ve told you with their name.

So, if you’ve just met someone named Catherine and she said she loves chocolate, remember Catherine loves chocolate. Or you could try to make a link with the name itself if there’s an obvious connection. For example Cat makes up the first part of the name so you might think of a cat to remind you.

Memory block 4: “I just can’t memorise things like I used to”

There are lots of useful apps for over 50s. Playing brain training games is a great way to hone your intellect and get your cognitive skills up to scratch. Despite all the talk that technology is making our brains become lazy, there are some great free iPad apps out there to test your brain and give your mind a good work out.

  • Lumosity: This app uses brain games designed by neuroscientists to build your overall memory skills and attention span. You can choose which parts of the brain you want to exercise and it creates a selection of personalised games based on your preferences. The first five sessions are free but after that you’ll need to subscribe.
  • Clockwork Brain: This uses innovative puzzles such as anagrams and ‘chase the numbers’ to test visual, spatial, logic, language, arithmetic, and memory skills.
  • Dots: This addictive app takes mental exercises to a whole new dimension. The aim of the game is to connect dots with as many like-coloured dots inside the grid within a one-minute time frame. Creating squares clears a specific colour and is key to earning large numbers of points.

We can’t change how our brains work but we can become more aware of how to organise our thoughts. Getting into the habit of spotting patterns and making connections with facts is a great way of trying to overcome forgetfulness in everyday situations.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.