Let's Reminisce: How to cope with forgetfulness
By Jerry Lincecum
Jan 29, 2015
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I found a very helpful article on forgetfulness recently and decided to write a column on the subject.  Now where did I put that clipping?  Oh, yes, the article is saved on my computer. What name do you suppose I gave to the file? Here it is: ďForget.doc.Ē

Having grown up in an extended family household which included my grandfather (aged 70 when I was born), I became familiar with the phenomenon of forgetfulness in others at an early age.  Then at the age of 25 I began a career of college teaching, notorious for ďabsent-minded professors.Ē

For the first ten years or so, I chuckled at the funny stories told about the memory lapses of some of my predecessors at Austin College.  Eventually I recognized a kinship between myself and these learned but forgetful profs.

Now that Iím in my seventies, I look for articles that offer remedies for forgetfulness.  According to this one, the average person misplaces up to nineitems a day, and one-third of respondents in a poll said they spend an average of 15 minutes each day searching for items like cellphones and paperwork. The best news is that everyday forgetfulness isn't a sign of dementia or Alzheimerís.  Basically itís the result of a breakdown between attention and memory.

Itís important to pay attention when you put down an object or park your car, for example.  The act of physically and mentally retracing your steps when trying to locate something is often helpful.  If you were starving when you entered the house, maybe you didnít pay attention to where you laid your keys.  Thinking back to what your state of mind was may help retrieve the memory.

The best way to remember where you put something may be themost obvious: Find a regular spot for it and somewhere that makes sense, experts say. If it's reading glasses, leave them by the chair you sit in while reading. Charge your phone in the same place. Keep a container near the door for keys or a specific pocket in yourpurse.

One proven technique is to say out loud to yourself, ďIím parking in Row 10 next to the cart return.Ē  If you want to remember a future task, visualize it alongside the place marker cues that you expect will be present.  To remember to buy chicken, avocados and lettuce at the grocery store, picture the produce and meat departmentsand those items.

If you miss something at home, donít look for it right away.  Wait until you get an idea.  When you start searching, look once and look well. Donít rummage around haphazardly.  Start by looking carefully in the place where itís supposed to be.  Maybe itís there but covered up.

So whatís a real absent-minded prof capable of?  How about forgetting that he had climbed up on a table to pull down a map?  Result: he walked off when the bell rang, breaking an ankle.  Now that wasnít me, mind you.

A retired English professor, Dr. Jerry Lincecum teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories.  He welcomes your reminiscences on any topic: