With age, memory loss frequently occurs – from fading memory to serious Alzheimer’s type disorders. Should we offer the senior memory exercises or specific workshops to boost his brain? The opinion of Marie-Christine Gely-Nargeot, professor of psychopathology and neuropsychology at Paul-Valéry University in Montpellier.
Stimulate memory: pros
Preserve its activities and social relations
“Memory is a particularly complex function and becomes fragile with age. In the case of “normal” aging, it is not a question of memory disorders, but of attentional disorders, which generate difficulties in going to look for a memory.
Of course, we can stimulate the brain, but how? Some have created methods, most of the time assimilated to muscle exercises.
It is forgetting that the brain is not a muscle! Rather, I recommend that older people “stay in life”: get out of their homes, nurture social relationships, go to the theater or movies, play scrabble and crosswords, participate in artistic activities or writing workshops. … Are excellent examples of brain stimulation.
Or knitting, which makes certain cognitive networks of the brain work, including those of memory. Intergenerational relations are also very stimulating. The important thing is to choose an activity where the person has fun, which facilitates engagement.
But no need to impose yourself to learn three pages of Victor Hugo every day! Gardening or physical activity will be just as effective… ”
Well-founded and individualized methods in the event of pathology
“In the case of problematic aging, with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s different: there are real memory problems. But we can teach the patient to more easily retrieve his information.
There are empirically based methods – unlike books which are a bit intuitive. We must therefore choose a technique put to the test of scientific law and learn about the training of those in charge: rather neuropsychologists, trained in the elderly.
The care must also be individualized – because brains are not the same – and focused on a goal of daily life, such as using your mobile phone, it is much more effective in everyday life.
There is also the Montessori method, which neuropsychiatrist Cameron Camp applied to the elderly with cognitive impairment. It is another type of care, absolutely extraordinary. ”
Stimulate memory: the cons
An anxiety-inducing focus on memory
“Today there is a focus on memory that still bothers me because it is very reductive. Forgetting is a normal and very necessary process, even life-saving. However, memory has become the supreme function in society and Alzheimer’s disease, much-publicized.
We started to pathologize everything and this generates anxiety, creating “Alzheimerophobia”. Rather than imagining that it is normal, the patient says to himself: “My memory must not deviate from the norm, otherwise I am going insane.
It is very anxiety-provoking! The memory complaint linked to age has also become more important since memory centers were created in hospitals. ”
Beware of stigma and exercises to strengthen your memory
“In addition, the stigma is very deleterious on memory: an older person will answer a memory test as she thinks a 70-year-old should answer – as does the little girl who, because she believes she is not good at math, will not perform well.
Also be careful not to be fooled by the sirens of the different methods intended to strengthen the memory, which take advantage of the fact that the elderly are in great demand.
This type of exercise does not seem essential to me. I am more in favor of optimizing the performance of daily activities, the well-being, and the quality of life of the person. And that we do not decide for her. ”