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Short term and long Term memory training


I am working with Age concern and one of the main fears of the older people is that they will loose their memory Does any one have any exercise's or advice on how to help older people to retain information. I am currently training basic IT skills to the elderly the instructor before me was just downloading step by step exercise's and getting older people to go through them. one elderly gentle man was doing spreadsheet exercises add graphs, calculations. and some very complex stuff which i haven't even done. I said its great what you doing however if i was to say can you produce a shopping list on the excel sheet with graph detailing your purchase's over a month. He look at me with dread and fear, and then answered no. I have been experiementing by providing step by step guides that have a visual element to them and after each exercise i ask the trainees to demonstrate what they have learnt by showing me without the paper work. For those that don't remember, i ask them when they are going through the step by step exercise's to speak out aloud the steps they are taking. Example one old lady was struggling to add an home page i asked her to show me she couldn't so i started say go to the tools menu, then internet options, choose current. click ok she did this and still didn't remember i went through it again asking her to say the steps out loud each time. She did this 4 times with me standing next to her and finally got it. I told her that at the end of the class i will check with her again and she got it. I am new to training and find that repetition seems to be the only thing that is work with older people but would love hear of any other techniques. regards Nick

9 Responses

  1. what’s the point?
    It may be outside your remit but it might be worth asking “what is the point of teaching IT skills to the elderly?”
    Let’s face it I doubt that they are going to be going to “work” each day to use spreadsheets and wordprocessing software, or setting up e-commerce sites, so why bother?

    People generally only “learn” something that has a value to them so if, for instance,
    ~Dave has family in Australia he might find email, skype and web surfing of value
    ~Jane has spent her life collecting antique bottle openers she might find a lot of value in setting up and running a global forum
    ~Gupta had a fascinating war in the Bengal Lancers he might find word processing or desktop publishing marvellous for writing his memoires and the itnernet great for researching and tracking down old comrades.

    The purpose will in many respects provide the added impetus to memory.

    Many older people were educated by the use of mnemonics and simple rules; Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, I before E except after C and so on. If you can get them to make up their own to aid their memory this will probably help.

    Why do they have to remember it? is there anything wrong with them having an aid memoire such as a little credit card sized card with the process clearly written on it….having the psychological crutch of the answer may be enough to increase the confidence to use the IT.

    I hope this helps
    PS I was told recently by a delegate on a training course that her great grandmother lives in a small rural village in Poland and is in her 90s. The village didn’t have mains electricity until the 1990s but great grandma, having had a lesson in websurfing from her great granddaughter now has her own website and is in contact with distant relatives and likeminded folk all around the world.

  2. Whats the point
    Hi Rus

    thanks for your reply, the purpose is to keep thier brains active and the main reason is to help them communicate to family abroad etc…

    I do aggree with you whats the point has i was assisting an IT trainer and who again was teaching the elderly all they were doing was going through step by step intructions however they weren’t remembering what they were doing and they have been attending this community based class for years.

    thanks for you advise

  3. Use it or lose it
    Hi Nick

    On a very general level, I think it boils down to if you don’t keep the brain “working” it quickly begins to lose its sharpness and ability. So if we don’t want to become forgetful we need to “exercise” the brain. (Incidentally I’m only referring to individuals who do not have any known medical problems).

    I remember some research was carried out on the general functioning ability of the brain on business people before and after taking a two week chill out holiday. The downturn in the brain’s processing power was quite marked even in that short period of time.

    Anything that encourages brain activity will help including crosswords, suduko, DS Lite (Brain training exercises). I agree it has to be something of interest and relevance to the individual. The individual has to be able to see what’s in it for them. Also regular testing of the memory function is important.

    Good luck with the training

    Nicky Cooksley

  4. Memory tools
    There’s some good memory learning aids available on line or as CDs DVDs; it may be a good idea to have something that they can play again and again to help them improve memory that way.

    Have a look at the Alzheimer’s Society site too, they have some free materials and information sheets

    All the best

  5. Try TOM and MILD KELVIN – ‘cos
    Hi Nick
    Here are some memory training tips that might help. We specialise in Memory Training and it is an integral part of everything we do at TOM International and No matter who you are training, if you don’t deliver it in a way they will remember it, you have virtually wasted your time as a learning facilitator. If you do a YouTube search for ‘TOM International – memory’ you will bring up a few videos which will give you some clues as to how to use MILD KELVIN – it is my version of Multiple Intelligences identified by Dr Howard Gardner. If you like, I can send you some Trainers notes/tips on how to use it if you (or anyone else reading this who is interested) contact me on my personal email

    More info also available at or from the book – ‘Everyone agrees with TOM!’
    This is just part of what we cover in the TOM Academy.

    Hope that helps
    Have fun with it

    Ross (and TOM!)

    Ross Page
    CEO & Founder
    TOM International Ltd
    Tel +44 (0)1273 227 020
    Mob +44 (0)7740 610199

  6. Learning comes with Searching
    Hi all

    thanks for your advise and links, since asking the question about memory i have done some research and found out that the general consensus is at least five parts to our memories.

    Working Memory
    Implicit Memory
    Explicit or declarative memory
    remote memory
    Episodic memory
    semantic memory

    What’s interesting is the Episodic memory this record specific personal experiences i.e locations, event, personnel involved, curcumstances and the book i am reading advise that to maximize learning i should make it episodic. and to design where possible activities that involve students doing physical activities as well as speaking, listening, reading and looking, the idea is to create learning experiences that really are experiences. Because episodic learning is effortless it happens all the time quite naturally.

    thanks for your feed back

  7. Hit the nail on the head

    you hit the nail on the head, has i have been reading about what your company does, a man named Paul Ginnis, explains this in his book the teachers took kit.

    I’ll look forward to your notes and tips



  8. Memory is essential to good learning.
    Just to clarify for you, Nick, the issue of retention is common to all learning, throughout our lives. Please don’t feel that you are alone in this, or that your problem is too unique. Some of the most unwilling to learn and remember are teenagers, believe me! It has nothing to do with age!

    I agree with much of what Russ and Ross have said. My only practical suggestion would be in utilising episodic memory. Don’t feel you have to come up with your own exercises in a vaccuum; your delegates will know what is relevant for them. If you are comfortable with a more two way approach to training, then start the training session by asking what people want to know, what they want to do with a PC, and what experience they’ve had with computing, word processing or typing in the past.

    This two way approach will help in terms of understanding your delegates & their prior experience to build knowledge on. It will also help in providing some sketchy details of episodes/ scenarios to build exercises on, either impromptu during that session or for building cases for use in following sessions. And finally, it can help the delegates feel more comfortable with each other, which supports the social networking aspect of training. In particular, delegates’ comfort in the classroom is key to them admitting incompetence or misunderstanding so that you can build competence, confidence and understanding.

    To sharpen the knife as it were, I would also recommend starting sessions with the ‘list game’ to identify for yourself how each delegate learns (e.g., visual, kinetic, auditory). If they learn by seeing, then give them photos, graphs & demos galore. If they learn by doing, give them the chance to have a go & provide ‘co pilot’ info to guide them. If they learn by hearing, then use the mnemonic devices mentioned before, heavy on alliteration or using musical golden oldies with adjusted lyrics to help retention of essentials.

    Hope this helps.

    Tiffany Nairne
    Director & Senior Consultant, Capitential LTD

  9. Short term and long Term memory training
    Thanks Tiffany

    so very good advise my aim it to try out all the suggestions and find out what best meeds the needs of the students


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