Think fast – can you tell me what it is about brain health that really worries most of your clients? If you answered forgetting things, you would be right. A recent AARP survey found that about 45% of adults 65 years and older complained of a decreased ability to remember things (AARP 2015). Without a doubt, memory is “top of mind” for most older adults looking to better their chances at staying brain fit.
So what do you do to help your folks remember better? Do you teach memory strategies? Provide training to help them remember names more effectively, keep better track of their belongings or improve their retention of conversations? If you don’t, take heart. Very few wellness-based brain health initiatives offer memory training programs, primarily because it is harder to do so without expert support. Yet here are 3 good reasons why your brain wellness initiative should include memory training:
- Brain Fitness is Not Memory Training. One of the most misunderstood concepts in the field of brain health is that providing training around brain wellness concepts will boost memory. While aspects of brain wellness certainly support everyday cognitive performance, there are many interventions, such as ongoing intellectual engagement or diet, that do not directly impact how well we can remember names or directions. Improving memory requires instruction in the practice of specific strategies proven to improve learning and retention. Regardless of your organization’s mission or strategy, your brain health initiative should include memory training opportunities.
- Memory Training Works. Does memory training really work? Yes. Not only do we know that memory training works, but it also has a very long history. In fact, one early leader in memory research called it the “world’s oldest profession.” In early civilizations, where knowledge was transmitted orally, storytellers practiced complex strategies to memorize and transmit history, religious principles and other important information from generation to generation. The Classical era celebrated complex memory strategies as key qualities necessary for successful oration, codified the methodologies used, and even gave us the term “mnemonics.” More recently, research has demonstrated that such strategies significantly and robustly improve how well we learn, as well as our ability to hold onto that information for longer. A recent study even showed that learning the complex memory strategies used by competitive “memory athletes” (which are identical in most ways to those used in ancient Greece and Rome) actually reshaped the participants’ brain network to one more similar to that observed in the athletes themselves.
- You Will Disappoint Your Clients. Remember those folks whose biggest brain health concern is forgetfulness? They expect that your brain health initiative will help them remember better. In another AARP survey on brain health, when asked what brain training is, a whopping 88% of those surveyed felt it was best described as an activity or exercise that “improves memory” (AARP 2014). Forgetting to include memory training as part of your brain health initiative may be setting up a clear path to disappointment and diminished returns on your brain training investment.
I hope that you will keep these 3 reasons in mind as you design and implement your organization’s brain health initiative, and that you won’t forget the importance of making memory training part of that plan.
Want to learn more about why memory matters to your brain health initiative, or how Total Brain Health can help you insure you are offering an evidence-informed, well-rounded brain health program? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or set up a time to speak.