A few days ago I wrote about the memory and how some people are tragically locked into the present because they cannot remember the past and cannot comprehend a future. If you did not see that piece you may want to read it on my Facebook page. Let me add a little more on the subject today.

If you were asked, “What did you have for lunch last Friday?” the chances are high that you would not remember. You would immediately ask yourself, where was I and who was I with in an attempt to bring back the connection for Friday lunchtime. Yet if I mention 9/11 you would immediately remember where you were and probably what you were doing when you heard about the attack on the towers in New York. We need markers to remember. We remember by association.

What about other things like historical dates, anniversary dates, birthdays, telephone numbers, shopping lists, social insurance numbers, credits cards and the list goes on. We have no triggers for those numbers. For those we rely upon the strength of our memories. Maybe anniversary dates are a bit easier because one knows the consequences of not remembering!

From a survey taken among young adults, (35 and under) few could recall more than two or three telephone numbers. Some even had to check their home number on their mobile devices. The thinking is that with speed dial (No time to waste dialing) why bother to remember numbers. However, there may be other benefits to remembering.

At school we learned our multiplication tables to twelve – now that dates me I know. I sometimes wish we had learned them to 15. However, they are still there to this day and have been extremely useful over my life time.  Today children use calculators.

In my early teens I worked after school as a grocery delivery boy. I was always amazed at the ability of the shop owner to add columns of figures in front of the customer in no time at all. Those were the days in England when he would be adding pounds, shillings, pence, halfpennies and farthings. I determined then that I would learn to do the same. To this day I prefer to add columns of figures in my head as opposed to using a calculator.

In our everyday lives we remember the important, the significant and meaningful. Most of our daily lives are forgotten the moment after it has past. I hope that doesn’t mean that a good chunk of our lives is trivial – sad if it is!  But what do we do to help our memory faculties. By relying upon technology, by purposely not remembering numbers and deliberately not bothering with what we might call superfluous information, I wonder if that is not helping.

I don’t think we should just accept that our ability to remember naturally declines as we age. Every thought, therefore every calculation, creates brain activity and brain activity is the name of the game to remain sharp. We remember dates and events by association. We can do the same in the present. We can remember numbers by chopping them into bite size pieces. We can remember lists by associating the items with one another. We can remember names and faces by linking them with already familiar subjects.  We can read, write, discuss, do crosswords, play sudoku, do some calculations, do anything that stretches the brain.  If we don’t, perhaps one day we might wish we had!