When you hit middle age, it's normal to feel that your memory is turning into—wait, what's that cheese, the one with the holes? Fortunately, memory and aging expert Gary Small, MD, has a few compensation techniques to help you remember what's on the tip of your tongue. "Our memories live in neighborhoods in the brain," he says, "so if you can't recall an author's name, try thinking of her other book titles or the names of your friends in book club. A neighboring memory can sometimes trigger the one you're looking for."

Your Grocery List
Create a mental image that ties everything together. Say you need eggs, pasta, and broccoli: Visualize a cracked egg falling on some pasta wrapped around a broccoli stalk.

To help boost your "prospective memory" (i.e., remembering to remember), review your day every morning at the same time and place—say, when you're drinking your coffee. Be as detailed as possible: Do you need important files? Gym clothes? If those things aren't already next to the door, put them there immediately. After a few days, this habit will become second nature.

The Name of That Nice Guy At the Party
Aging brains are less adept at concentrating in distracting environments, Small says, so if you're directing your attention to a dropped hors d'oeuvre or a new song on the speakers, it's easy to miss someone's name. Try the focus-and-frame technique. When you're introduced to someone, think focus—remind yourself to fight the distraction—and frame: Create a memorable mental image, like Joe drinking coffee or Katie with a cat on her head. "The majority of people with memory problems have a hard time remembering names," Small says. "But if you can make it meaningful, you can make it memorable."


Next Story