As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience occasional memory lapses. Forgetting names is a common challenge that many seniors experience, and it can be both embarrassing and frustrating.
You may have heard, or even used, the placeholder “whatshername” which is often a playful or lighthearted way to refer to someone whose name they cannot recall or are unsure of. Don’t worry it is not meant to be derogatory or disrespectful. Instead, it is a simple approach to acknowledging moments of forgetfulness.
Why We Can Forget Names
Forgetting names is a common occurrence that can happen to anyone, regardless of age. But why can it be hard to remember and recall names?
First, the volume of information our brains process daily can overwhelm our ability to retain every detail. Names, in particular, can be challenging because they are often random and lack personal significance.
Another reason is the amount of distractions, stress, or lack of focus during introductions which can hinder focusing on the name.
Of course, another factor is the natural aging process, which can result in mild cognitive changes, making it harder to recall names.
Overall, forgetting names is a common and normal aspect of human memory functioning.
Strategies to Help Recall Names
Thankfully, there are strategies and techniques that can help improve memory recall, especially when remembering a name from someone you are first meeting. Here’s a few tips to help.
1️⃣ Repeat the name: The first step in remembering names is actively paying attention when you are introduced to someone. Try and avoid distractions and be fully present in the moment. When they tell you their name, repeat it—in your mind and outloud. For example, if you meet someone named Jane, you could say, “Nice to meet you, Jane. How long have you lived in Arizona?”
2️⃣ Make associations: Associating a person’s name with something familiar or memorable can significantly enhance recall. Maybe it is you could associate with a close friend or relative who shares the same name. Or maybe you meat a couple named Mike and Carol and you associate the couple from the hit sitcom The Brady Bunch. Creating these mental connections can help trigger memory retrieval.
3️⃣ Visualize and imagine: Visualizing someone’s name can be a powerful memory aid. As you learn a new name, try to imagine it written in your mind’s eye or visualize it in the sky from a skywriting plane. For example, if you meet a person named Sandy, you could visualize a beach. These mental pictures create a unique and vivid association with the person’s name, making it easier to remember.
4️⃣ Repeat names silently: Silently repeating a person’s name several times after you meet them can reinforce the memory. It helps embed the name in your short-term memory and increases the chances of long-term retention. As you interact with someone, try to recall their name internally as many times as you can to solidify the memory further.
5️⃣ Use mnemonics: Mnemonics is great memory aids that helps you remember information by associating it with an easy-to-recall phrase or acronym. When you come across a new name, create a mnemonic that relates to the individual’s appearance, profession, or distinctive characteristic. For example, if you meet someone named Carrie who is a caregiver, you could devise a mnemonic like “Carrie the Caregiver” to help remember her name.
Engaging in regular name recall exercises can greatly improve your memory. Practice active listening and challenge yourself by reviewing a list of names and attempting to remember the corresponding faces. The more you interact with others and practice remembering names, the better your memory will become.
While forgetting names can become more common as we age, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable occurrence. By applying these practical tips and techniques, aging seniors can enhance their memory and minimize uncomfortable situations. Remember, with a bit of effort and practice, you too will say
“whatshername” less often.
What about you? What memory tricks have helped you? Let us know in the comments.