Somebody’s name, an item you need to buy, or something you want to tell your friend – these are all typical things that might escape your memory. To remember something, you might repeat it a few times and visualize doing it. Of course, you can write it on paper or in your phone’s memo app, or even narrate a voice memo or text to yourself. But there’s another option: Draw a picture.
Drawing & Memory
A study from the University of Waterloo in Canada suggests that making a quick drawing can be an even better way to remember something. The research team conducted experiments on a group of college students, as well as on a group of seniors, to find out which techniques helped them best retain a memory. Participants were asked to either write out a word, listen to information about it, or to draw a picture of the item.
Both the college students and the seniors retained memories best by drawing – and, reports the team, “This effect was especially large in older adults.”
As we grow older, normal changes in our brains can make it harder to remember things. Most of the changes are in areas of the brain that handle words and multi-tasking. But, reports the Waterloo team, “In contrast, we know that visuo-spatial processing regions of the brain, involved in representing images and pictures, are mostly intact in normal aging.”
Drawing and Alzheimer’s Disease
This even holds true for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory loss. Brain imaging shows that the artistic abilities of people with dementia may be retained even when other abilities are lost. “We think that drawing is particularly relevant for people with dementia because it makes better use of brain regions that are still preserved, and could help people experiencing cognitive impairment with memory function,” said study author Melissa Meade. “Our findings have exciting implications for therapeutic interventions to help dementia patients hold on to valuable episodic memories throughout the progression of their disease.”
Benefits of Drawing
Drawing and other forms of art also provide great brain exercise, and a boost to all-around good health. According to a study authored by the late Dr. Gene Cohen, who was a pioneer in the study of aging and creativity, seniors who participate in an arts program report a higher overall rating of physical health, fewer doctor visits, less medication use, a reduction in falls, and fewer other health problems.
At Webster at Rye, all of our residents have access to arts activities, which we believe are an important part of life at any age.