As we age, we all experience some reduction in our cognitive abilities. Despite being common, we can help prevent these small declines in our short memory. Like any muscle, it needs to be exercised.
The following are memory activities that you can use to help elderly loved ones with long-term and short-term memory strengthening:
Sharing stories from your past will help stimulate your loved one’s memories. You can start this activity by opening the dialogue. Think of an that you and your loved one shared together. Make sure that it’s one that you are confident the other individual will remember. Begin to talk about it with an introduction like, “I remember when we. . . ” and continue from there. There is a good chance that this simple conversation starter will help trigger their memories.
Help Them Make a Scrapbook
Working on a scrapbook together offers you both a chance to reminisce about the people and events in the photographs. Besides sparking memories, this should allow you a chance to record, on paper, your loved one’s memories of these events. Include these recorded memories in the scrapbook. They should become a treasured memory for yourself, your siblings and/or your children.
By Matthew (WMF) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Name That Tune
When stimulating memory, the more senses you engage the greater success you will have. Do you know songs that have a special significance for your loved one? Do you know who their favorites singers and musicians are? What music was popular when they were teens and young adults? Play some familiar songs and have them tell you the name and artist, if possible.
Memory Card Game
You do not have to exclusively focus on memories from the past. Simply exercising the memory itself is important. The simple memory card game you played as a child is something that can help keep your loved one’s mind sharp. Be patient, but have fun while you play a game together.
The Room Game
The “Room Game” is an excellent game to play when your loved one is in the mood. Choose a room they are familiar with, spend some time together paying attention to and studying the room. Talk about the items inside. Then have them close their eyes and remove something from the room. At first, remove a large, obvious item. Have your loved one tell you what you removed. Then have them do the same thing, allowing you to guess. To exercise their memory gradually make the items less and less obvious.
Encourage them to keep a journal or diary , and then spend some time reading appropriate parts together. The longer you continue this practice, the more memories you can expect it to trigger. If your loved one kept a journal as a younger adult, you can read these entries together too.
Besides triggering memories cooking is a great activity that can can also engage nearly all of our senses. Take the time to cook something together that is a family tradition, and observe how the smell and tastes evoke memories and encourages conversation.
Plant Something Together
While caring for a large garden may not be practical anymore at this stage of their life, maybe you can work together caring for some potted plants or tending to a small indoor herb garden. For your those who used to garden, getting their hands dirty again may spark memories of their love of gardening or other lifelong hobbies.