Active Seniors

Memory and the method of Loci

A very commonly reported change that is often associated with ageing is a loss of memory. There are many different tips on improving memory and one of the methods that has been used for more than 2000 years is the method of loci.

What is it?

The method of loci was originally used by the Greeks and the Romans specifically to assist with their ability to deliver lengthy public speeches. Without the aids of paper notes and computer presentations, one of the factors that determined success in this arena was memory and recall. This method has continued to be used throughout history to assist with everything from card counting to public presentations to exam preparation.

 How does it work?

The method involves the use of a familiar route, and placing objects at distinct locations along this route. It is much easier to understand when applying the method in a practical sense. Lets start with an easy example.

Imagine you are walking from the front of your driveway to the back door of your house or unit. This is a route that should be very familiar for most people. Before you set out on the journey you need to think about the list of things you want to remember. It may be your daily to do list:

1.       Transfer money between bank accounts

2.       Call a friend

3.       Return a library book

4.       Pay an electricity bill

5.       Buy chicken for dinner tonight

For the first item on the to-do list, picture yourself opening your letterbox and taking out an envelope with the words bank written on it. The second location is the front door. Imagine your friend knocking on the door with an oversized phone to their ear. The third location is the hallstand which has the library book sitting on it. Hopefully by now you understand the concept.

The key to making this method successful lies in a couple of things. Firstly, the route that you choose and the objects you place along the route must be very familiar. Secondly you need to create an environment that engages all of the senses. Visualise yourself on the journey attending to each of the objects, imagine the sounds and smells you experience. Finally you will need to practice mentally walking through the route a few times to reinforce it. As they say practice makes permanent!

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