Three Tips for Guiding Seniors to Improve Memory

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Confucius, Chinese philosopher and teacher

Three Tips for Guiding Seniors to Improve Memory

One of the bugaboos in communicating with prospects and residents in your retirement community is “age-associated memory impairment.” The National Institute of Mental Health coined this phrase years ago to define changes that cause memory problems for some in the normal course of aging.

It does not affect everyone but it tends to occur with many mature adults as they age. At your retirement community, you are likely alert to the signs of memory difficulty, as you have to repeat what you say or notice that the person is not doing what you have described. It could be hearing difficulties, memory decline or some of both.

Let’s look closer at memory loss. Memory suffers a decline of about 30 percent by age 70, according to Danielle Lapp in her excellent book, Nearly Total Recall: A Guide to Better Memory at Any Age.

She refers to a list of how we absorb information best developed in a study at the University of Texas National Institute for Development and Administration a number of years ago. It guides teachers and trainers in developing course curriculum today. More importantly, it helps us improve our level of interpersonal communication with our prospects and community residents.

Here is a sequence of interactive techniques for increased memory recollection and recall stated in percentages:

People generally will remember only:
•      10% of what they read
•      20% of what they hear
•      30% of what they see
•      50% of what they see and hear
•      70% of what they say and
•      90% of what they say and what they do.

Reading through the list, you will see how increased recall and memory occur when several are used in combination. Obviously, the more often combinations are used, the goal of reaching a higher level of memory recall is achieved.

Here are three takeaways in helping senior adults process new material more efficiently:

First, get the person to practice by doing whatever is suggested or requested.
You need to find a way to have the person experience it personally, when possible.
Second, describe or pronounce it out loud, as you demonstrate it. Then, have the person say it out loud as the individual performs the task.
Third, whenever possible, use senior-friendly visual informational aids that support what you are saying.

The more numerous and varied the media we employ, the richer and more secure the
Information that’s provided.

You may want to consider using the memory chart as the basis for a training session for your associates. Present the information, break into discussion groups and have them report on situations and ways they can help improve residents’ memories.