If I were to give you four minutes to study the list of words below, ask you to look away and recall them all, would you be able to write them all down? How about in the correct order?
Wool Maple leaf
Cruise ship Mariachi band
Not as easy as it looks, right?
We all have trouble remembering where we left our keys, what we need from the grocery store or even what day it is sometimes, let alone a list of ten abstract words…. in order.
But there I was in the multi-purpose room at Mulberry PARC around 10 in the morning, trying to do exactly that with a half dozen residents. We were participating in a Memory Fundamentals exercise, part of the GREY MATTERS brain fitness class, under the LivingBalance™ program for residents.
We struggled to recall the words, each of us scribbling furiously in short bursts, combined with long, thinking pauses. I found myself yearning for a double shot espresso. And I don’t even drink espresso…
We all ended up with at least half the words right. But when instructor, Rob Huppee, announced he had a technique to drastically improve our results, there was a collective sigh of relief. It’s called ‘Method of Loci’, Rob explained. Loci is latin for ‘place’ or locality. The method uses virtual locations you imagine in your mind where you place images of the words.
First, you imagine a location familiar to you. Let’s say your living room. Then you create mental images representing the words and place them at various spots around the location. Take for example: gondola. You could picture a gondola hanging above your couch. The next word: tulip. You could imagine red tulips sprouting out of the coffee table. And so on… the sillier, the better.
Glancing around the room, I could see the participants nodding their heads, rather pleased at this idea. Rob then asked us to exercise the Method of Loci technique again with our words. Only this time, nearly everyone aced it or missed only one or two. Amazing!
This exercise is only one technique in the program that is offered at all four PARC Retirement Living residences. GREY MATTERS incorporates different exercises that serve to engage the brain on different levels, help the working memory, improve spatial awareness, improve attention to detail and ultimately assist the cognitive function of participants.
Personally, I enjoyed the session so much, I may attend the next one. If only I can remember when it is….