Normal aging can play tricks on your brain. You may have a harder time focusing or absorbing new information. This is normal, but it can make it more difficult to learn and retain new things.
But you don’t necessarily have to resign yourself to an “it is what it is” position. By employing a few strategies, you may be able to boost attention and information retention.
The first is to look and listen closely when a person is speaking to you. Making eye contact will help, as will diverting your attention from a book, television set, or activity you’re engaged with. If you missed what they said, ask them to repeat it or speak more slowly.
Next, attempt to paraphrase what was just said to make sure you understand; doing this can also help to reinforce the information in your memory.
So let’s say your daughter asks if you want to come to see the grandkids on Thursday at 4 p.m. or Sunday at 10 a.m., you can respond with, “What do you like better, Thursday at 4 or Sunday at 10?”
Quiet environments can also help because there's less going on. If you meet people at a noisy restaurant, it can be harder to stay focused and absorb information. Instead, try meeting people in smaller groups at quieter locations, like homes or parks.
If you go to a restaurant, try sitting with your back to the action. When your friend is sitting with their back to the wall, it might be easier to focus on what they’re saying.
Screening out distractions and concentrating on one thing at a time is another way to improve retention. Avoiding interruptions by asking people to come back later or by not picking up your phone can also help you stay engaged and hold onto information.