A Life that Leads to a Healthy Memory

Examples are most helpful in achieving goals. So I like to provide examples of people who lead lives that promote healthy memories. In previous blogs I’ve written about a remarkable senior citizen in his nineties, Fletcher Platt, Sr. I’ve provided his website, fletchplatt.com, not only as a valuable source of information, but also as an example of an activity that maintains and builds a healthy memory.

In the same vein I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine who is a fellow baby boomer.

We were both born in 1946 and are at the leading edge of the baby boom. When he married in 1968 he started keeping a log of the family’s activities. When children arrived he moved up to a monthly journal. Remember that this was in the time before personal computers. So this involved manual writing or using a manual typewriter. When the personal computer era arrived he transferred all this information to his PC. He also built this material by adding old photos. He found that this activity stimulated other memories. Sometime he used the internet to check the correctness of these memories to assure he was placing them in the right time period.

A few years ago he started to make a story beginning with his childhood and covering the years up till his marriage. He now has at least one page for every years since 1950. This makes sense, since he turned four in 1950 and our memories prior to age four are extremely sketchy, at best. He uses the internet to check on the things that happened during those years and this stimulates his memory further. It also increases the accuracy of his memory. He is able to check when Howdy Doody with Buffalo Bob aired, when Johnny Tremain appeared on Disneyland, etc.

So why does he do this? The simple answer is that it is enjoyable. And it is always good to capitalize on things that we enjoy that are good for us. This activity provides exercise for the brain. Memory searches trace circuits that have not been activated for a long time. These memory searches further consolidate memories. It also increases the accuracy of his memory. Not only are memories lost, our become more difficult to retrieve, over time, but they tend to drift and fill in the blanks with inaccuracies. So memories become more memorable, if you will, and in the process of consolidating these memories, the brain becomes healthier and less vulnerable to potentially damaging aging processes.

He is also transferring these internal memories to transactive memory. Transactive memory refers to the external storage of memories. This record is of interest to his family and friends. His grandchildren and his descendant of future generations will find this record interesting and worthwhile. Perhaps many centuries into the future, scholars will find this a valuable source in trying to understand how we lived and how we thought.

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