Ageing and Memory: My Experience Participating in a Research Study

Updated on April 30, 2017
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Those Memory Problems

As we age, we often seem to have problems with our memory. For me, it's not the big things. I can remember quite clearly little things that happened way back in my life, with no problem at all. They stand out in my memory just like the vignettes that J. J. Rousseau wrote about. I remember reading about that in French class when I should have been studying for my Year Twelve examinations. It was so much more interesting than the declension of French nouns and learning the pluperfect of verbs that did not follow normal rules.

With our memory, it's the little things that niggle and become such a bother.

There's even a joke that my friends tell about this memory problem. I'm sure that if you're reading this and relating to it, you will remember it:

The Hereafter

As we grow older, we often think more about the Hereafter. We walk into a room, look around vaguely and then say, "What am I here after?"

Memory and Words

Thinking of the right word when I'm writing can sometimes be a problem. Actually, it can be downright annoying if I can't find the exact one I need to express my thoughts.

On these occasions, what would I do without my trusty Penguin Macquarie Thesaurus? It's becoming so tattered now that it's in pieces, and often the section of the "word finder" that I need at the back is just what has disappeared in the dim recesses of my bookshelf. Everything is pulled out in the quest to find it.

Memory and Things

The next most annoying thing that I sometimes can't remember, is when I urgently need something, go into a room to get it, then look around and...

"Oh, bother! Why did I come here? What did I want in the bedroom?" I turn around, go back to where I had been, and then the memory returns. "Oh, yes! My cardigan! I was beginning to feel cold." And back I return to the bedroom, retrieve said cardigan and struggle into it.

Memory and People's Names

Probably the most difficult words to remember are the names of people I know quite well.

I can picture their faces, remember lots of things about them, where they live, what work they do or used to do, how many children they had, where they went for holidays—just not their name!

And that can't be located in a thesaurus, either!

Seeking a Solution

Some time ago, the retirement village where I live was approached by two students. Now when we think of students our minds probably veer rapidly towards a group of people in their late teens or early twenties. However, these two students were mature men with families and they were working together on their Ph.D. thesis. Their research topic? Yes, you've guessed it! Ageing and memory!

We residents were requested to attend a meeting when the two men would present their topic and ask for volunteers. As I'd been on a research path some years ago I knew just how difficult it can be to find a sufficient number of subjects for a study, I put my hand up and said,

"I'll be a guinea pig!"

I'm not sure that was the response they expected, but I was accepted, along with several others.

The Subjects

Those who volunteered were divided into two groups. We were instructed to adhere either to:

  1. A Mediterranean diet
  2. An exercise regimen

As I was already on a diet, I chose exercise. I did pilates exercises most mornings, but the study's exercise program was for walking.

  • Those to be on the Mediterranean diet were given recipes and a large tin of Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Those who were to go walking were given a pedometer and a folder to record their walks.

Of course, we did not know if we were the "real" subjects or if we were in the control group.

It wasn't long before some people withdrew; the walking was a bore, recording it took too much time, the diet did not have enough variety, all the cooking was a nuisance, etc.

The Process

As a participant in the walking condition, I was given a folder that contained illustrated lists. These included:

  • Warm-up exercises to be done before stretching exercises.
  • Stretching exercises that included a whole page on stretching our Iiliotibial bands.
  • The next page was devoted to the Bent Leg Calf Stretch and the Front of Calf and Toe Stretch.
  • Walking equipment included cotton socks and lace-up walking shoes.
  • Another page provided advice on suitable clothing, hats, water and sunscreen.
  • A final page listed health benefits from a daily regime of brisk walking.
  • It concluded with the message: "Enjoy your walk."

The Physical Benefits of Walking

I remembered that, when they were growing older, my Mother insisted on going for walks in the evenings with Dad. It was pleasant in the gloaming of summer, but not so good in winter and seemed to become unstuck in that season.

However, I think we all know that walking is healthy exercise. It's not much use if we just mooch along; to be beneficial, it needs to be brisk.

The benefits of brisk walking include helping us to

  • control our weight,
  • lower our blood pressure,
  • improve our cholesterol levels,
  • overcome breathing difficulties,
  • strengthen our bones and so help to ward off osteoporosis,
  • ward off diabetes,
  • prevent a heart attack,
  • prevent a stroke,
  • and help us to generally feel more relaxed, happy and confident.

Record-keeping Encourages
Record-keeping Encourages

Is it worth the Effort?

Yes, and yes, again! I chose to walk early in the morning before breakfast, and it really helped to put me into a positive mood for the rest of the day. More than that, it actually did lower my cholesterol and my blood pressure.

In addition, I'm certain that it also helped my memory. When we are feeling relaxed, positive and healthy, it's so much easier to control our whole lives. Even when we are older, that's what a healthy life is about: holistic health, which means keeping fit in our bodies, minds and spirits.

Am I glad I volunteered? Definitely. All that was a couple of years ago, and I'm so sure it really helps that I'm still walking—briskly!

Try it and let me know what you think.

What About You?

If you have memory problems as you age, what do you do?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      6 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Nice article. Very motivating. Thanks.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      18 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      John Hansen: Sorry for the delay in my response, I've been up in Brisbane with family over Christmas and have just returned. Yes, I agree that writing helps to keep our brains functioning. What do you know? I have a more up-to-date thesaurus, but it is the old 1986 Penguin Macquarie Thesaurus that I still use most! It's falling to bits, but is usually so helpful.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      19 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Bronwen, I found this very interesting. I do walk reasonably briskly almost everyday but I could probably go further than I do. I may start doing it in the morning before breakfast too as you do.

      I also think that writing on a regular basis helps to keep the brain functioning and so helps memory as well.

      You also reminded me that I need to buy a new thesaurus. I have a very old 1986 Pocket MacQuarie. It's better than nothing but there are a lot of words it doesn't have.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      22 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      Nadine May: I'm so sorry I missed your comment. Yes, water is important, too. Thank you for your comment.

      Peggy Woods: No! they gave me an email to contact and I did, but sadly had no reply. I do agree - that if I leave it until later in the day, it just doesn't happen.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      22 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Did you ever find out if you were in the group being studied or the control group? Whichever it was, exercise and a good diet certainly cannot hurt anyone and has good benefits. You are smart to start out your day with exercise. It is all too easy to let that time slip by with other excuses.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting read. I start my morning by doing the salute to the sun (yoga exercises) and twice a week I join an hour yoga class, and I drink a lot more water during the day, so yes the moment we stop looking after our body, the aging will speed up and our memories will slow down...

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      jo miller: Thank you - and I'm so glad that it has helped to motive you. Sometimes I need some of my own medicine, too, so thank you for the reminder!

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      3 years ago from Tennessee

      This is an inspiration, Bronwen. As I sit here on my computer, I'm reminded that maybe I've been here long enough and it's time to get up and move around.

      Very well done!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Larry Rankin: Thanks, Larry. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Venkatachari M: I do so agree, but as a Christian, I would add prayer; I find it a great help. Thank you so much for your helpful comments.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Blossom, this is an awesome article on aging, memory, and fitness.

      The Here After symptom is a very general problem experienced by many aging people. I also experience it at times. It happens when your mind is either blank or overloaded with many thoughts. The body automatically goes to get something as per its daily habit but the mind is unable to perceive it to complete the action.

      Walking, exercise and meditation can be of much help in improving your memory and mind power to a great extent.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great read!

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Linda Crampton: Good for you! I enjoy walking, too.

      Michael-Milec: I agree with you. As walking helps to keep our bodies healthy, spiritual health is also important and learning Bible verses is a great help towards that.

      Ruby Jean Fuller: They are funny, and keeping a sense of humour is important in wholistic health.

      Louise Powles: Yes, and I think that when we are feeling fit and healthy for our age there's absolutely no need to worry about it.

      Manatita44: Jewels indeed - in the Master's crown. Blessings to you.

      Dora Isaac Welthers: Oh, those names! But while they seem to disappear just when we need them, our love for our friends is not forgotten, and eventually they come back, too. Usually in the middle of the night when we don't need to remember them any more.

      Bill Holland: I can't think of any cases when exercise is not helpful, except when our doctors have deemed that we must rest, such as after a procedure, or when a certain part of us needs time to heal. Those memory lapses can be so frustrating, but we do have so much to be thankful for as well!

      Eric Dierker: That's great if I've helped to encourage you to keep walking. It's so important to keep it up. If we stop for some reason, such as bad weather, it's more difficult to begin again. I have friends who do their walking in an air-conditioned shopping centre! They do it as a group and finish up with a coffee together. Sounds like a good idea.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing your experience and advice, Blossom. I love walking. I'll continue doing it for as long as I can both for the enjoyment and in the hope that it keeps me and my memory healthy.

    • Michael-Milec profile image


      3 years ago

      Helpful documentation how aging and memory process might have been prevented/ slow down or even postpone endlessly. (?!) Only "if " we would be willing to start earlier. How early? Now. The sooner - better. We can choose proper diet, strict discipline of exercise and a rigorous lifestyle as The Jesus says. " Be ye doers." I do like your personal way of 'healthy" living working for you favorably. That's how we all begin. Carefully study own body, respect a diagnosis. This I learn quite late after first hip replacement in my sixties. A construction worker , always active, never sick needed help. This I learn quite late after first hip replacement in my sixties. A construction worker , always active, never sick needed help... I have begun following instruction, educating myself and faithfully implementing the best I can to the glory of God. He gave me a healthy body I do not have right to ruin it. So I am keeping it in best physically condition, regularly walking ten thousand steps daily, certain type of exercise besides "full time" engagement daily, plus reading, writing in two languages , memorizing new words, some English phrases and a new bible verses. It is with satisfactory peace of mind to know that thirty two years later my performance is similar to that of fifty years ago... How it is possible, I am limited in words to explain. Someone has suggested "I can do all things through him who STRENGTHENS me." I took it seriously.


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I'm laughing out loud at Lori's aging jokes..So funny!

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      3 years ago from Norfolk, England

      Yes, I do worry as I get older about my memory. But diet and exercise certainly helps.

    • manatita44 profile image


      3 years ago from london

      I have to say that you, Ruby, Nellieanna ... you are the crown jewels. God bless you all!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Blossom, for crying out loud, I don't know where the names go when I need them--names I have called over and over for years. Yes, that is frustrating, but not the end of the world, thank God. I like your entire article. I walk too, and surprised that I have actually grown to like it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You say exercise helps and that comes as no surprise to me at all. In what case would exercise not help? None I can think of. Anyway, here I am, approaching 69 and yes, I know my memory has lapses and gaps. It is annoying at best.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Awesome Blossom. You encourage me. More walking for sure.

    • BlossomSB profile imageAUTHOR

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      FlourishAnyway: It certainly was! Thank you for your comment.

      Nancy Hager: It's so important to keep moving. On my 'brisk walks' I sometimes do Scouts' Pace. It really gets the blood flowing.

      manatita44: Well, sometimes I also jog, but you have twenty years to go to catch up to me! Growing Older does somehow catch us unawares. I love your writing, do keep it up.

      Ruby Jean Fuller: Thank you for your lovely comments, I'm glad you enjoyed reading my hub. I haven't been here as much as I should be lately; I've been concentrating on my latest books.

      Lori Colbo: What great little poems! And I can totally relate to putting something away carefully so it is safe and then not being able to find it!

      William Kovacic: Ha! I'm convinced that the exercise really does help the memory. And I remember which season you are enjoying there at the moment - Spring! Lucky you, make the most of it! It's Autumn here and getting colder - Brrrr!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      What a nice surprise. I just got back from a walk. The weather is beautiful and I enjoyed it. Does it help my memory? I forgot what I wanted to say! Have a great weekend.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Exercise is extremely good for your brain, your endorphins are stimulated and if nothing else, make you feel more alert, and a feeling of mental vigor. Here are a few jokes on ageing I found a few years back and included in my humor article on ageing.

      1. Often times I walk into a room, say "What am I here for?"

      I wrack my brain, but all in vain a zero is my score.

      At times I put something away where it is safe, but, Gee!

      The person it is safest from generally is me!

      When shopping I may see someone, say "Hi" and have a chat,

      Then, when the person walks away I ask myself, "Who the heck was that?"

      Yes, my forgetter's getting better while my remember-er is broke,

      And it's driving me plumb crazy and that isn't any joke.

      My forgetter's getting better but my remember-er is broke, to you that may seem funny but to me that is no joke. For when I'm "here" I'm wondering If I really should be "there," and, when I try to think it through, I haven't got a prayer!

      2. An elderly couple was watching television one evening. The wife said, "I am going to get a dish of ice cream now." Kindly, the husband offered to get the ice cream for his wife. "I'll write it down so you don't forget," she said.

      "I won't forget," the old gent said.

      "But, I want chocolate syrup and nuts on it. So, I'll write it down," she replied.

      "I will get you the ice cream. Don't you worry," replied the gentleman.

      A few minutes later, the old man returned with bacon and eggs. His wife said, "See, I should have written it down because you forgot the toast."

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was an interesting hub. I got a kick out of the quote, " What am I here after? " I can relate! I agree with your comments. I find exercising is the key of remaining fit when we age. I have a Tony Little Ab exercising machine, and I work out on it twice a day, plus walking to the post office. ( I live in a small town and we all have PO Boxes ) I think writing and reading daily helps too. Thank you for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it...

    • manatita44 profile image


      3 years ago from london

      I'm afraid I'm already there, my Sweet. At only 65!

      You've covered the topic well indeed and your advice on exercise is illumining. I've written an inspirational piece on growing older and maybe about 10 poems on passing. There is a recent one. Something about He Left This Mortal Coil. Have a read.

      Yes, many have fears at this stage. It's very normal. There is actually a book that I read many years ago called Growing Older, written by a nun. Perhaps you can find it on the net. Loving wishes.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      3 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I agree that exercise helps us to feel better. It is amazing how much better you can feel if you just move a little each day.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      It is difficult to get participants in dissertation studies, so I am sure they were very appreciative. It sounds like it was mutually beneficial!


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