Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For Seniors Only

One downside of getting older is a tendency to forget simple things. I guess the brain starts running down like every other body part, and suddenly you can't remember where you put your car keys, or your car! Strangers point at your fly, which explains that refreshing breeze you've been feeling all day. (Guess it wasn't the Mentos.) You'll start to do something, get distracted, and leave the task uncompleted. Usually the consequences are not serious, but they can be, like leaving something to burn on the stove while you work on your blog. Here are some tips developed from experience that can help:

Write things down. If you're a computer person, use the "Calendar" feature on Outlook to remind you of important events or appointments. I also use a little black date book for the same purpose...low tech but just as effective. Enter birthdays, anniversaries, car inspection and registration due dates, doctor's visits and anything else you need to remember. The most important thing is to look at the computer or book every morning, otherwise the exercise is pointless.

When you start something, finish it before moving on to the next task. It's so easy to get distracted by interruptions like phone calls, someone at the door, the arrival of the day's mail or a million other things. If you have to go for a tool or something else to complete the task, focus on getting back to what you started before picking up something new. Try to have whatever materials needed to do the job on hand so you don't have to interrupt your work. Resisting distractions will help you avoid incomplete tasks.

Develop routines. If you do things at around the same time every day, they tend to get done by simple time association. If you take a maintenance medication daily, get one of those pill boxes with the compartments, and take your meds at the same time every day. Also, put things like glasses, car keys, wallet, cell phones and remote control units in the same place to minimize the chances for misplacing them. As you get older, regular routines can help you in your day-to-day life.

Watch for changes in routines. If you're used to driving the same route home every day, an unconscious mental program soon develops so that you can follow the route without consciously thinking about making a right turn here or a left there. The mental program runs on a back burner in your brain while you think about other things. This is usually not a problem unless you have a dentist appointment and have to follow a different route. If you're not alert, the mental program will take over and you'll be home sitting in your driveway wondering why you're not at the dentist's.

Exercise your body and your mind. Daily exercise of some type produces chemicals that are beneficial for brain development. Also, exercising your mind through regular reading, doing crossword puzzles, learning new skills like playing an instrument or studying a foreign language, can actually build new brain cells to replace the ones being lost through the aging process. It doesn't matter how successful you are at mastering these new tasks, it's the trying that's important! The less you use your body and brain, the more quickly they will deteriorate, making you a prime candidate for the Shady Pines Rest Home.

See the doctor periodically. Most of us do this of necessity, but periodic checkups can pick up problems before they get more serious. Forgetfulness is common as we age, but more advanced memory loss may be associated with Alzheimer's and require special treatment. Also, many conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease can be detected and managed if caught early enough. Don't take your health for granted; the best way to get back at the government for taking all those tax dollars is to cash as many Social Security checks as possible!

Finally, two suggestions: first, try to laugh every day. Not many laughs in the papers, but get DVDs of your favorite old comedy shows like the Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, or anything that makes you laugh, and watch it at bedtime or when you're feeling low. Second, enjoy a glass of good red wine once in a while. These last two tips may not help your memory, but will make life a little more enjoyable.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

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