Wednesday, 14 November 2012
Letter from Butiama: How not to forget
This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 4 June 2006.
Children spend a considerable amount of time pretending they are adults. They can be doctors, nurses, drivers, and even parents.
When they do become doctors, nurses, drivers, and parents, they sometimes long for the days when they were children, without the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. And when they grow old, they long for the youthful energy and vigour of younger generations.
I recently pretended to be “old”, as old as a grandfather of about seventy years of age, and someone who is a grandmother reminded me that I was far from even being considered joining the senior citizens’ club.
I find myself increasingly preoccupied with growing old because of the frequent signs I get that I associate with ageing. If I were a car I would probably be approaching the reconditioning stage. New is out of the question.
In the recent past, whenever I misplaced my cell phone and could not find it, I would dial my number using another handset and when it rang I would unearth it from a pile of books or clothes. Recently, I misplaced my handset, called my number, and it rang from the pocket of a trouser I was wearing.
Science is yet to conclusively establish how human memory functions, but one thing that is certain is that older people are affected by memory loss. The good news is that it is a gradual process. We do not suddenly go from having normal memories to none. We begin by forgetting where we left the house keys, and progress to more serious memory deficiencies.
Fortunately, there are many aids that can help to counter the effects of age and memory loss. When I once complained to someone about my poor memory, she told me that glucose intakes improve memory, but I have a problem remembering to buy the glucose. I am not a doctor so you may want to consult one if you consider that option.
Frequent participation in memory exercises also helps those who are affected with memory loss. Some of these exercises involve looking at a large list of names or numbers and then attempting to recall as many as possible.
Improvements to electronic gadgets and accessories may also help to reduce incidences of forgetting. Cell phones and computers contain personal reminders that will remind us of an appointment next year as long as we remember to feed in the information beforehand.
I have other suggestions. If you happen to be one of those people who remember the right thing at the wrong time, such as remembering that your birthday is next August, but actually forget it is your birthday on the day itself, then what you probably have to do is get used to carrying a small notebook. The procedure is that each time you remember some errand, task, or appointment you note it down on the notebook and later transfer it to a diary.
If remembering is crucial to your daily activity it is quite helpful and convenient and will save you from a lot of disappointments. One important point is you have to develop the habit of opening that diary first thing every morning before you begin work; otherwise, whatever you record will be of no use.
A common problem I encounter is forgetting an item I have to carry out when I leave in the morning. To remember I place that item at the door in such a manner that the only way I would leave the room is to step on it or over it.
If you have stick-on papers they are extremely convenient as reminders. You jot down your reminder and place them where you cannot miss them: on the monitor of your computer, on your desk, on your bedroom mirror, on the toilet door, or on the first bottle of your favourite beer when you sit down to relax with your fellow “stakeholders” of the beer industry. Normally, one’s memory should not be affected by one beer.
There are some memory problems that may not have immediate solutions. I once opened a file to inspect some documents and placed my car keys on the open file. I believe I turned over a few pages of the file, forgetting to remove the keys, closed the file and returned it to the shelf. I discovered the keys some years later on opening the file again. I do not remember the file subject, but I suspect it was my employees’ pay rise applications.