It's funny how the memory goes - as in fades away in bits and pieces. My grandson remembers lots of things, his mind is like a sponge. He'll come over to my place, find an egg cup mixed in with his toys, and head right to the kitchen cupboard it's supposed to be in. My daughter was like that too as she grew up, if we were looking for something we'd check with her and she would immediately remember seeing it on the third shelf of the wall unit, or in the garage, or where ever. Since we all tended to drop things in random places, it was a useful skill to have in a family.
But as we get older things fade, we get little gaps here and there. I think of memory like Post-its in the mind, we carefully write all these facts down and arrange them together in related groups, adding coloured strings between related events, and it all looks very nice in there and works just fine for years. Then as we age, the glue that binds our thoughts dries up and the Post-its start to fall one by one to the floor. At first we pick them up and stick them back up, but they keep on falling. And we don't always remember where they've dropped from. When we were younger we must have used better glue, or maybe thumb-tacks to hold the memories there, the older ones seem to stick up better - we can remember our grade 4 teacher's name, but forget we had a luncheon meeting this week. In some places we're left with just one end of the string, we follow it back and are surprised by the intensity of a memory, isolated on it's own, without any context around it. It's like looking for something in old boxes of treasures in the attic, finding a forgotten love letter or photo, and getting lost in the moment, forgetting for a bit what we were looking for in the first place. We can also try to re- arrange these memory scraps on a table in our mind, like a year-end gathering of bills and receipts, but we're like an old house as we age, with cracks and creaks, a bit of sagging, blocked plumbing, the occasional leaks - and drafts, blowing those scraps around.
There is hope for us boomers though, as we have lots of toys to help us remember things - calendars and reminders on our iPods and PC's, pop-ups telling us it's time for the annual checkup (us or the car), or it's a freind's birthday, or we've a hot date with someone. Darn, if only we could remember who the date was with.
I've browsed online for some relate links on this, here are some interesting ones:
- smoking pot may increase memory, according to a G&M article - supposedly it promoted the creation of new neurons in rat's brains
- another article of their's says "exposure to bisphenol A, the hormonally active chemical used to make the linings of most tin cans and hard plastic bottles, may be able to alter brain function, impairing the ability to learn and remember, according to a new study by researchers from Canada and the United States." So for us that had plastic baby bottles, and then smoked dope, the net memory effect may even out.
- there are many products marketed to improve memory, or at least slow it's loss - including one that combines an exercise bike with computer games. But this article says you can get the same benefit by doing some crossword puzzles.