Oh Memory, Where are you Hiding? Do you Remember Most Things? Sometimes, and Too Often, No!


Do you think you’re losing your mind because you can’t pull up the right word for something? Actually, your memory probably isn’t as razor sharp as it used to be in most cases. Yes, it’s another “at your age…” condition. 

Words elude you. Purposes do, too. You walk into a room and forget why. You can’t pull up someone’s name (maybe your bestie’s, how insulting)—you know, what’s his name. And you put something down like your keys or phone and forget where you left them. A chunk of time is spent trying to locate them. Often, they are right under your nose, but you can’t see them (but that’s the focus of another blog). And you forget so many people’s birthdays…until days later.

Everything we do isn’t that important to remember, and we don’t always need everyone’s name we’ve met maybe once. Who cares what you ate for breakfast a week ago or where we celebrated the last five New Year’s Eves (probably at home so it shouldn’t be so hard to remember). Why tax our memories and brains with such minutiae? 

Then, there are the more significant issues of remembering what our passwords are (to get into a bank account), how old our grown children are and even what year they were born (and we were there), when our close friends have birthdays and other milestones to toast, what we served at our last dinner party when we used to have them and what we regifted you for last Christmas, so we don’t regift it again. 

Maybe, it’s so hard because our brains are really like filing cabinets storing so much information that we don’t access daily. Use it or lose it, some say. Example: Margaret was able to figure out how to program and use her headphones for a radio program. She then unplugged them and when asked by a podcaster to use headphones, she couldn’t remember how to reconnect them. It’s so frustrating! Barbara forgot where a credit card was. She searched the house, cancelled it, and then after a March snowfall melted, there it was on her green lawn. Obviously, she had dropped it.

So, what are we to do to remain sane, not drive ourselves and others crazy with frantic searches and also to be kind—remembering good friends’ 50th anniversaries or 75th birthdays, for example? 

In 2023, we’re trying to be smarter by devising ways to compensate, which save us time and stress. (If we can’t remember where we put our medicines for calm, that could be another biggie.) Here are 12 tips to help. Some of the habits we’ve not started yet but we will when we remember to do so.

  1. Remember your phone and keys. If you don’t keep them in a purse or briefcase, how about setting them in the same spot on a counter or piece of furniture near a door you use daily. Barbara had a friend make a frantic search in her house for her black phone since she set it on a black counter. Let others try our suggestions, too.
  2. Remember your clothing. Have you ever set down a jacket, scarf, hat or even a pair of shoes and can’t remember where they are? Often, we didn’t really set it down. Margaret couldn’t find her glasses the other day. She panicked until she realized they were on her head. Also, when you can’t find something, it’s not that your house or apartment is so large, it’s just that you have piles here and there and the item you might be looking for lurks underneath a stack of freshly folded laundry. Hang them up in a closet, and voila!
  3. Remember those passwords. Believe it—or not, there are cute little books you can buy to input your information and update it since you’re supposed to change passwords regularly. Barbara gifted one to a friend who had so many she was going CRAZY! Margaret was given an alphabetized address book when she left St. Louis which she now uses to list her passwords. However, she has to remember where she put the book. We suggest that you put it somewhere near your computer perhaps in a desk drawer. That’s what Margaret had done and it works.
  4. Remember other key data. Barbara’s house has an alarm system, and she sometimes switches the code, which she needs to get into the house. She also needs to remember a password with the company if she sets off the alarm. She needs to compile that kind of data too but hasn’t. For now, she’s dependent on her brain. Not a good decision. Same goes for her allergies, which fortunately her pharmacy and doctors track. She also needs to compile all the numbers for her credit cards in case her wallet gets stolen. At least she has little cards with the dates of her Covid-19 vaccines.
  5. Remember to take your meds. We both keep our meds in the same place, so we know where those are. But did we take all three pills we take daily or not? We’re not old enough we believe to have one of those pill boxes with days of the week marked on each little “cubicle.” Maybe we should since we don’t take all at once, but some in the morning and some at night. What are we to do, give in or have a chart on a whiteboard or a printed-out version taped to our refrigerator? Margaret keeps her meds in a basket on the kitchen counter. She takes them out of the basket and lines them up. As she takes each pill or vitamin, she puts it back in the basket, a sign that she did indeed take her meds.
  6. Remember names of shows and books. Many of us found ourselves watching too much more TV during Covid and some of us also read more books than we used to. People asked us repeatedly, “What did you love and what would you share?” We’d love to but sometimes we can’t remember the name of the show or the book. Maybe we watched or read it at the start of the pandemic. And we know that was now pretty long ago but how long—two or two-and-a-half or three years? (March 2020). Or, often we’re reading something and cannot remember the title and the author. Write such names down and keep a log. Margaret will write it down if she’s getting together with friends who invariably ask: What are you reading these days? She always has her cheat sheet with her. Barbara’s beau keeps a running list of shows others have recommended for their future watching. Keep a notebook in your purse or pocket. But too many lists may pose a problem of where to keep them stacked and accessible.
  7. Remember birthdays and anniversaries. It’s nice to be remembered and remember others. Barbara tires of some friends exclaiming, “How do you always remember the date of my birthday?” For her it’s easy since FB alerts her to many people’s birthdays who are on the social media platform or her little red birthday book remembers all that she’s written down. She received the book from a work colleague, maybe, 48 years ago. She doesn’t recall exactly when, but that date doesn’t really matter; she remembers the sweet person who gave it to her.

         There is little excuse with so many ways to keep info on a digital calendar           on your Smartphone or computer, which will send daily reminders. And                 Barbara recently reminded a close friend that her fifth wedding                             anniversary  was coming up; the friend thought it was her fourth, so we               can help others.

  1. Remember weekly schedules. When is that doctor appointment? How about your tennis match? Or the phone calls for interviews for work? This we consider pretty easy if we put it into our Outlook calendars or write it on a paper calendar. Those are big “ifs” and we try to do so but the key is to check! And if plans get cancelled, we try to remember to check those, too.
  2. Remember connections. How long you’ve known someone may or may not matter but if it’s important write it down or know someone who will remember. For example, several years ago Barbara went to a friend’s 60thbirthday dinner and the friend asked the group to share how long they had known her and how they had met. Barbara couldn’t recall if it was 2ndor 3rd grade but knew her friend would remember because of her still fabulous memory. She did and announced it was 2nd grade but that they became better friends in 3rd. So, in that case either answer would have been correct.
  3. Remember what you went to the store to buy. For those of us who might forget, make a list (but you have to remember to bring it with you and where you put it). If you don’t have the list, fret not. It will come to you hours after you get home so you can head back (and count the steps on your phone or similar tracker since you’ll never remember on your own).
  4. Remember what you wanted to say. I was going to tell you something, but I can’t remember what. The words don’t come out. Or, we’re telling a story or joke and can’t remember the punch line. Oh, well, our career as stand-up comedians will never pan out. Sometimes silence is golden. And if it’s so so important, we will remember at some time, we believe—usually in the middle of the night. But don’t call us then.
  5. Know that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you remember. Barbara and Margaret were introduced by a mutual friend who thought they’d like each other because they were both writers. Bingo, she was right. But they don’t agree about how they came to write their first book together about family business. Sometimes, narratives are remembered differently, which is fine since they both remember that the experience was so good that they kept on working together and they agree it’s 36 years, or wait, maybe 37? Doesn’t matter. It’s the Rashomon effect where memory can play tricks on our mind. 

The point is, if you can’t remember an actor’s name or the name of your fifth child, don’t beat yourself up. Learn to compensate and create crutches that work for you. Margaret will often use post-it notes and stick them on her person or the wall by her computer. It’s a creative way, you can rationalize, to use your brain.

Or ask the person or someone else as Barbara recently did when she couldn’t remember the exact June date of one daughter’s anniversary. But the next time you see someone whose name doesn’t pop into your head, just wave and say, “Hi, how are you! It’s so great to see you again.” They’ll probably be so pleased they won’t care. It also gets them off the hook since they may not remember your name either. However, do remember to read our blog weekly by signing up, so it automatically pops up in your email box each Friday. That makes remembering a no-brainer; thanks. 



  • Cath Cretu

    When I woke up this morning I remembered the whole diplomatic definition of heaven and hell that I just couldn’t recall on Zoom last night! LOL!

  • Merri Rosenberg

    Love this! Helps me feel that I’m not alone…and good suggestions.Thanks.

  • Audrey Steuer

    Wonderful blog! Now, I feel less alone and incapacitated! My mother used to misplace everything all the time as she got older and I told her that I always put my purse in the same place as well as keys and my phone. Also, it helps that as soon as I take clothes off or finish using something, I put it away right away – always in the same place. That way, I force myself to maintain the regimen and remember it. Names and words are a different matter. I think we forget them temporarily in a stressful situation – like making introductions, etc. As soon as the pressure is off, they come back to mind. These situations can be so embarrassing! As it is said, aging is not for the weak!

  • Mary Lou

    Excellent and helpful blog and very reassuring in this day and age of so much stress, especially mental stress and overload.

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