Class teaches seniors ways to deal with memory loss

    Memory loss is part of aging for many people, ranging from occasionally forgetting things to serious conditions including Alzheimer’s.

    A new program at the University of Pennsylvania teaches older adults ways to work around their memory problems.

    Seniors and several instructors are bent over cell phones, e-readers and tablets. Today’s lesson: using technology to augment your memory.

    Felicia Greenfield with the Penn Memory Center explains that phones and tablets can remember things for you–things such as doctor’s appointments, shopping lists, and even coming to class

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    All the participants have memory loss that is not quite normal aging, and not quite dementia. They are here to learn different ways to cope, and retain their independence.

    When one participant realizes she has forgotten her phone, a teacher suggests she put a sticker by her door to remind her. The student likes the idea, and says she will put a sticker with the word “phone” written on it next to the place where she always puts her purse.

    Bill Atlee of Thornton, Pa., says relying on the phone works for him.

    “My iPhone is my crutch, I use that when I get an appointment or something I need to do, it goes right into the phone,” said the 72-year-old.

    The course also teaches meditation techniques to cope with the anxiety that often come with memory loss–a feeling Gayle Warburton of Abington knows very well. She said she starts questioning herself when she makes a simple mistake. For example, she missed a turn while driving the other day, something she has done many times over the course of her life, but now it feels more threatening.

    Breathing exercises help participants stay calm when they are having difficulty remembering things or learning something new.

    Antonia Hamilton of Philadelphia says that, in addition to learning new coping skills and tricks to deal with memory loss, she also feels less alone just by meeting others who struggle with this issue.

    The current class is a pilot project; the next series of classes starts in March. For more information, the number to call is 215-614-1828.

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