Understanding how memory aids work

Memory loss can affect any of us at any time. Memory aids are a great way to aid us as a stimulating tool. Discover exactly how memory aids work.

Memory aids can have a significant impact in people of all ages, and their purpose is to act as prompts for stimulating recall. They can be useful in people of all ages, and they are often a common part of therapeutic treatment in sufferers of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimers. The limbic system of the brain contains many organs which all play a part in the development and storage of memories, so the fundamental goal of an aid is to boost function in these areas. Memory aids can be electronic or digital, making them an extremely accessible way to develop recall.

Traditional Memory Aids

Traditional memory aids include diaries, calendars and journals, used to record notes and to act as a reminder for a daily task or event. Habits are associated with memory, as they can trigger routines which can contribute to improving memory. Traditional memory aids function in helping recall by providing physical signifiers, which are usually placed somewhere easy to locate and relatively visible. This builds a sense of familiarity with the location and the object, for example a diary placed on a bedside table builds a daily sense of recognition when either waking up or going to sleep. Other options include puzzle books such as sudoku, or perhaps making a daily ‘to do’ list.

Electronic Memory Aids

The popularity of mobile devices has soared in the last decade, as recent studies by Ofcom found that in 2008 only 17% of people owned a smartphone, whereas in 2018 the figure reached 78%. Memory aids are now accessible through a variety of digital formats, with interactive options such as applications and games. Mobile phones have digitised traditional items such as calendars and alarm clocks, making them useful for keeping records of dates and times of errands such as doctors’ appointments, or perhaps for providing a reminder to take medication at a certain time each day. Another useful feature is the voice recorder which is common on most phones, as information can be stored and played back later.

There is an extensive amount of electronic applications, which provide useful triggers and prompts to stimulate daily recall. The phenomena of ‘brain training’ has been adapted into games by companies such as Nintendo, which made memory aids a fun and interactive series of visual challenges for users of all ages to solve.

Depending on personal requirements, a suitable memory aid should be used as routinely as possible, to develop habits of association and recognition. Either type of memory aid, or perhaps a combination of both, can be ideal for stimulating recollection.