What to do to improve memory for seniors
My beloved mother, who is 82 years old, started having memory problems several years ago.
At first, she began to forget where she had put certain things. Then it became more obvious.
For me, the most heartbreaking moment was when we looked at a photograph of her sitting in the garden at our summer house on the Angara River in Siberia.
We spent our summers there for many years. She looked at it for a long time and then murmured, “I don’t remember this house …”
I tried not to cry. What to do? How to treat her?
How to save her memory? How to help my dear mother?
My mother was a brilliant scientist and, even in late retirement, gave frequent and fascinating lectures to the Russian émigré community in San Francisco. This new turn of events confused our little family.
At first, we visited several doctors, both Russian and American.
The pills they prescribed had side effects. Mom has high blood pressure and it was impossible for her to take them.
I was also sceptical about their effectiveness.
Then we decided to go the other way.
Over time, we developed a memory exercise programme that really helps her. I would like to share it with you.
1, Puzzle memory
Mom spends hours solving crosswords in Russian newspapers.
Sometimes it seems to take for ever for her to recall the missing word, but she is stubborn and then happy as a child when she finally has her “aha moment”.
2, Healing turmeric
Before going to bed, mom drinks a glass of warm milk with a teaspoon of concentrated turmeric.
I read that India has an extremely small percentage (5 per cent) of elderly people with impaired memory. Some attribute this to the prevalence of turmeric in Indian cuisine.
Turmeric and its main ingredient, curcumin, are present in many popular recipes.
That curcumin helps to improve memory has been confirmed by several scientific studies.
In one study at UCLA, memory was improved by 28 per cent! It is important to add black ground pepper to the drink because without it curcumin will not be absorbed by your body.
3, Group effort
Mom and her friend Valentine, who has an excellent memory at 94 years old, conduct hourly classes in memory training for elderly Russian people twice a week.
In order to do this, they have to work hard.
They prepare and compose questions, read literature and newspapers.
They take it very seriously and their students get a real work out.
Each prepares 25 questions which they quickly ask the group. Questions vary from simple to quite complex. The person who answers the most questions correctly receives a prize at the end of the class.
Mom leads for half an hour, then Valentine for the second half.
Their study group has become incredibly popular during the last year and continues to grow.
4, Letter to granddaughter
This is the most touching for me. Once a week, my mother writes a letter to Masha, my daughter, describing her life and recounting interesting stories from her past.
My mother enjoys this so much that she is now worried if she does not have time to finish in full each week.
5, Remember the day
Before going to bed, mom recalls how her day went, not only the sequence of events, but also her thoughts and feelings. She then recalls the day in reverse order.
6, Remember the life
I constantly ask my mother for the birthdays of her relatives and about her past; my dad, brother, grandparents, work and students. We remember our former life in Irkutsk and on Lake Baikal by perusing family photo albums.
7, Music influence
Mom plays the piano and prefers pieces by her favourite composer, Tchaikovsky. This is a great memory exercise as it involves not only her mind, but her muscle memory and co-ordination.
She also tries to learn new music. Once a month, she goes to the San Francisco Symphony Hall and listens to performances.
8, Positive and winning attitude
One of the most important things is our attitude. We can either give up or actually do something.
My mother is always cheerful and positive.
She keeps very busy, which in turn sustains her interest in life, her joie de vivre!
Her eyes sparkle when she tells an interesting story or plays piano.
Yesterday, I talked to my mom on the phone.
We recalled our summer house from my childhood, and the sweet strawberries she planted, the pink peonies she grew with love, and the slender mountain ash that my father planted beside the clear, cold water of the river.
At the end of the conversation, I asked her, “Have you noticed that your memory has improved a lot?”
“Yes, it has,” she answered happily. “I miss that summer house!”
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com</i>
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