September 9, 2022 by Dean Bellefeuille


Remember memorizing the order of the colors of the rainbow in elementary school? Many of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to learn this feat – among the many mnemonics we learn that, interestingly, often stay with us for life.

As we grow older, some amount of memory loss in old age is to be anticipated; and naturally it’s much more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is a factor. Scientists are continuously striving to identify effective ways to improve memory and cognitive functioning and have discovered some intriguing findings on “old school” techniques such as mnemonics. Here is what they have recently uncovered:


Mnemonics produces an association to a memory through a phrase, abbreviation, song, etc. This particular training revealed remarkable results in increasing activity in areas of the brain which are affected by dementia, resulting in increased retention of information.

You can discover limitless mnemonic strategies which are very effective in enhancing memory. For example, try mnemonic keywords. They are a fun and creative option to memorize words in a different language. It involves selecting a word that is much like the new word you wish to learn, and visualizing an image that brings the two words together. As an example, if you’re wanting to remember that chapeau is French for the word “hat,” you could picture Charlie Chaplin and his infamous black hat. The “Chap” element of his name can trigger the first letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.

Spaced Retrieval Training

This tactic involves gradually increasing the length of time between memory tests, and was found to be extremely successful for people with Alzheimer’s. When compared with mnemonics, however, there was actually a decrease in brain activity, leading scientists to ascertain that the information was being processed more efficiently.

Spaced retrieval training is highly helpful for enhancing independence and reducing anxiety for those with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired event or activity for the person to keep in mind, such as a lunch date with a friend on Friday. First ask the person a question to ascertain if the memory is already in place. If not, remind them they are having lunch with Sally on Friday. Wait 15 seconds, and ask the person the question again. In the event that the memory is in place now, double the time to 30 seconds, and ask again, continuing to increase the time and ask again. If the person doesn’t remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the method every 15 seconds several more times before determining that it is not an effective technique, at least not for this particular event or activity.

Both methods are simple, drug-free techniques to incorporate into the treatment for a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, or even for anybody who is seeking ways to improve memory.

Let At Home Independent Living provide additional support and resources for someone you love with dementia. Our creative approaches to care help make the most of a senior’s cognitive functioning, independence, and wellbeing. Reach out to us at (315) 579-HOME (4663) for additional information, and discover how we provide the kind of senior care Memphis, NY, and nearby areas prefer most. To learn more about all of the areas we serve in New York, please visit our Service Area page.