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50+: Live Better, Longer

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How to Grow Old Successfully

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"Exercise causes the body to release endorphins that make us feel good," says Satori Izutsu, PhD, the 71-year-old associate dean of the University of Hawaii School of Medicine. "So I jog, swim, and train with weights regularly."

Izutsu tells WebMD that it's also important to interact with people of different ages. "I continually interact with fun and interesting people of all ages. And I rely on voice mail and email to keep connected," Izutsu says. "I also make time for myself. Not for meditation per se, but just quiet time for reflection."

"The old adage that says 'you lose it if you don't use it' is true," says Charles Weaver, PhD, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "So play Scrabble, do crossword puzzles, or any other activity that enables you to use your mind. The best cognitive activity is reading."

In their book "Improving Your Memory," Janet Fogler and Lynn Stern, of the University of Michigan Medical Center's Turner Geriatric Services, suggest some other tricks for preserving your memory, including:

  • The story method. Make up a simple story connecting items that seemingly have no connection. This method can be used to remember a list of errands to be taken care of after work, such as going to the cleaners, buying milk, and getting a birthday card for a friend. For this example, the "story" might go: I went to a birthday party for a friend and spilled milk on my sweater, so now I have to get it cleaned.
  • Chunking. The theory behind chunking is that it is easier to remember four items than seven. For example, if someone's phone number is 253-2834, instead of remembering it as seven digits, break it down into 25-32-8-34 and remember it as: My sister is 25, her husband is 32, they have an 8-year-old daughter, and I am 34.
  • Mnemonic devices. Create an acronym or phrase that uses the first letters of each word you need to memorize. For example, say you want to be able to remember the five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You can arrange the first letters of each item into the word HOMES. By recalling "homes," you can figure out each item and remember the names of the five lakes.
  • Associate. When you meet someone new, try making a simple association to help you remember their name. For example, let's say you meet someone named Ruth, who has buck teeth. Try putting her name together with an adjective such as Toothy Ruthy. Or, if you meet a woman named Mary Campbell, try picturing her in a dress the color of a Campbell's soup can.

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