Sunday, September 1, 2013

An App that Supports Memory

Photo taken with my Droid Razr Maxx HD
Every once and a while, I have a little trouble with my memory.

I might lose my keys, forget an appointment or struggle to recall the name of someone I've recently met.

When I was younger, I attributed memory problems to being overcommited, tired, or stressed out.

I have even more demands competing for my attention now. 

To better manage all my responsibilities as a midlife woman, I'm learning about age-related changes to cognition.

Note that mature people have many strengths and other advantages when managing their cognition:
* greater stockpiles of information
* greater understanding of how to respond effectively based on context
* greater self-awareness of cognitive abilities
* greater awareness of means for compensating.
My maturity helps me manage challenges to my memory.  I have customized compensating strategies to my own needs.

Since I was a teen, I've been learning how to take notes, use alarms or timers, and have a place for everything (and everything in its place).

After mismanaging my memory in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I make a greater effort in my 50s to put my keys in the same pocket in my purse, I record all my appointments on one calendar, and when meeting new people, I associate their name with something familiar.

For example, Lara from yoga is athletic as is "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider." Lindy from the Medicare office is energetic enough to dance the "Lindy Hop."  Tom from bingo is boyishly charming like "Tom Sawyer."

I probably interact with over 400 different people in person or electronically (through my phone or computer) each week.  No wonder I need to employ a few tricks.

Recently, I have embraced the technology of electronic navigators.  There are many car features and technical tools that can help mature drivers maintain or even increase their safety on the road.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product. 

Specifically, I have been using the VZ Navigator app that came loaded on the Razr Maxx I've been carrying since the end of June. It was easier than I imagined, and it's come in handy several times.

[Edited to Add: Since partnering with Verizon in 2013, this app is now unavailable; the link promoted in 2013 is now "broken." However, it's still valuable to think about the way technology can support memory.]

VZ Navigator's GO TO Menu 
* I used this app to guide me to my brother-in-law's house when I flew into Salt Lake City several hours past my original landing time. I had been there before. However, it was late, and I was tired. The VZ Navigator gave me turn-by-turn voice directions.

* Because of construction, I was late to a meeting with a local business owner. I used this app to find an alternate route.

* I couldn't remember the location of my favorite vegan cafe, which recently moved from the south side to downtown. Instead of circling around several city blocks in an area with many one-way streets, the app give me a direct route.

* I was too busy managing a gift to research the location of a wedding shower prior to my departure. The app allowed me to drive to the shower directly--despite the hostess's home being situated near various bridges and dead-end roads.

In all of the above situations, my working memory or attention had been taxed by fatigue, multitasking, or external stressors.  Why not employ a memory aid to increase my productivity?

Using an external memory aid (even something as simple writing on a 3 x 5 card) is similar to hiring a subcontractor to do some of my brain work. 

Using any type of external aid maximizes my overall performance as a midlife mother of two, a supportive wife to a busy administrator, and a person with many projects of her own.


Older Drivers Practice Self-Regulation


  1. Excellent post. I do feel a little better about my minor lapses in memory now. We could use an app for navigation that's for sure. I always go to Mapquest for directions before we go somewhere new because my husband always thinks he knows the way when he doesn't :-) We don't have smartphones...just basic I do rely on lists and calendars and so far they do the trick. We're retired so we're not constantly on the go...if we were a phone app would be great. Thanks for the links too, they are very good.

    1. Jane: Thanks for stopping by the blog. I never grow tired reading about memory / cognition. My best to you as the map person at home. And hooray for calendars and lists.

  2. I must admit that I have not tried this app yet. I have always used Google maps as my navigator. Maybe I will check out this app and see how it compares.

    1. Cheryl: It's the only app I've tried, so I can't compare across the board. But being on-hand, it helped me overcome my resistance to relying on a computer to navigate me while I'm on the road. I can't always know prior what maps to research.

  3. This is an excellent post, Karen. I also find myself suffering from memory challenges. But something I've *felt* viscerally for years has now been scientifically underscored. It's that one reason that as we get older, it's more difficult to retrieve information, is that we have so much more information stored in our brains. I've often felt I could *hear* my fingers clicking through hundreds of files in my head, searching for the information I was looking for.

    1. Lynette: Thank you for articulating your experience in such specific, lyric language. It's good to know that this is a normal part of healthy aging.