Age as a barrier to memory work?


I’m curious as to how many older members we have. When I say ‘older’, I mean, say 60+ - though as I fall into that category myself, I really just mean not as young as some of our younger members.

I came across memory systems quite late on – aged almost 50 – and used them mainly for magic tricks that relied on memorising cards etc. (One trick I still do today involves having had to memorise and recall almost 400 words in a dictionary; I practise that every 2-3 months and, so far, I still know them all!)

It was only in the last couple of years that I discovered ‘Art of Memory’, and then, after an enthusiastic start, ‘life’ got in the way for various reasons and I dropped off the radar.

Recently, I’ve taken it up again and would like to improve as much as I can because I genuinely enjoy memory work. (My big problem is that, apart from work, I have a lot of other interests/distractions, so often it’s a case of trying to find the time.)

My current ‘achievements’ aren’t brilliant – but, at 64, I’m not unhappy with them and hope to get better.

Cards are 17 in 60 seconds (3 days ago);
Words are 18 in 60 seconds (also 3 days ago);
Numbers are 22 in 60 seconds (today); and
Images are 22 in 60 seconds (2 years ago – though I did manage 21 yesterday).
My worst discipline is ‘Names’ (12 in 60 seconds in January of this year) (though, recently, I’ve been struggling to get past 6!)

Overall, I have a 3300 rating and am currently 231 out of 1513 registered members - so it would appear that I’m not yet entirely past it, though how far I am from my ‘ceiling’ is another matter.

I’ve put my name down for the new season of the Memory League because I thought it would help me improve if I had something to focus on. (And help overcome my natural laziness!)

Anyhow, back to my opening line – are there many of us ‘oldies’ here? (Or, heaven forbid, is it just me?)

I really wanted anyone who joins who is younger than me – but perhaps worries they might be too old, to know that hopefully you’re not! I certainly don’t regard myself as ‘past it’. I think the big difficulty is that, as you get older, your reaction times are not as fast. You can still memorise a huge amount – but doing so in a limited time (eg the 60 seconds barrier) is slightly more of a problem. (But the challenge is fun!)

What a long post. I think it’s time for me to shut up. :slight_smile: (And maybe try to improve my ‘Names’ discipline!)

All the best,



I’m younger than you (52) and am relatively new to The Art of Memory. I personally don’t think that there are limits to how far one could go with their memory work. Memory work is a skill and therefore, in my opinion, something that can be trained to whatever degree we like. There are so many factors and yes some are physiological, but it also depends on your goals. I’m personally not interested in becoming a Memory Champion. I just want to improve and learn. Yes youth does have its advantages but being older also means we have more memories. The trick is remembering them.:wink: My advice is to just keep growing and compare yourself to yourself. Who knows you may sneak up on one those young whipper snappers and show them a thing or two.

James P.
P.S. If we forget each others names we may be in trouble :grinning:


Hi James, It was good to see your post… I am 58 and have wondered from time to time if there were many (any) memory enthusiasts around, so I was glad to see your post. I have not participated in the testing (have been doing this stuff on and off for 30 years though). I am now experimenting with Fragrance memory. my goal is to memorize a deck of cards using fragrance associations. Using a perfumer type curriculum for learning the fragrances and then see if I can use it to memorize whatever…going to try the deck of cards which I have done in under 6 minutes in the past (but not using fragrance associations). Fun stuff but I too get distracted by shiny objects from time to time… need to see this through.


I remember hearing about one competitor who memorized by smells, but I don’t know the details. I’d be interested in hearing how it works for you.

Edit: there is now a thread dedicated to that topic: Memorizing numbers, cards, or facts by smell?


I’ll post an update as I progress… purchased 24 different fragrances and just starting to “learn” them instinctively. practicing with ~ 5 at a time, for weeks at a time and at certain time of day to maximize olfactory sensitivity, etc. Long way to go yet.


Thanks for the replies - and I love the idea of trying to memorise through fragrance!

I am genuinely sorry I didn’t discover memory sports sooner - and the whole ‘memory’ world. It’s certainly reassuring, as you get older, to realise that your brain is still working quite well.

I used to road-race until a few years ago (when injuries curtailed my taking part) and it always gave me a boost to finish well ahead of people half my age. I do think it’s vital not to regard yourself as ‘getting old’, otherwise there’s always the danger of slowing down ahead of your time. I do have rather a frivolous attitude to life, which I think helps a lot.

I’ve signed up for the new memory league season and am really looking forward to, whatever my results. As long as life remains fun - and a challenge - it remains worth living! :slight_smile:



I fit the category you’ve mentioned, I’m 65 and fairly new to this environment. I’m hoping to start work on increasing my memory skills. But we’re out here!



I’m 73 and I’ve been memorizing text (poetry and Scripture passages) for a very long time. It seems harder to get the stuff memorized now than it was when I was younger, but it’s by no means impossible. Keeping text fluent (that is, being able to say it back without stumbling) is a bit more of an issue, but even that can be overcome with work. So I think age is not really a barrier to memorizing.


I am 75. Dementia is a frequent visitor to descendants of my maternal grandfather, and so now I have had visitations myself. I have experimented with several systems, but I rely most frequently on one described by Furst. I bought his old series of booklets at a garage sale in the '70’s. At this point, I use memory systems for daily survival and have absolutely no interest in memorizing decks of cards or sequences of decimals. Most recently, I use systems to memorize about a dozen topics in the daily news so that I can converse with others with some semblance of intelligence. That helps to avoid total social isolation.


I fit the category. Many years ago I learned 100 hooks and used them to good advantage in general living. Now I’ve decided to really get into it. I’ve added 100 locations and 100 names and 100 items associated with the names. It did take me a while but I’ve got 'em now.

A goal is to remember Bible scriptures by book chapter and verse. The location is the book, the chapter is a person by name (corresponding to phonetic number), and the verse is the memory item associated with the number of that verse.

I also have some fruits/veggies (in order by color) in a separate set of 66 locations. Kinda crazy, I know, but my first set of 66 locations seemed too small to accommodate all the info I wanted to tack into the location.

The first set of locations was entirely inside of a house, my new set of 100 locations is spread across town in various buildings. It gives me more room for stories, characters, actions, etc.

Long story short: The system IS helping my memory of Bible verses and (I think) my memory in general. I hate to admit it, but I previously qualified as a poster-child for “Can’t Remember Anything.” Now, after working on this for a while, my memory has improved.

I have Psalm 91 down. Not an impressive feat for ya’ll memory giants, I’m sure, but it made me happy and I’m just getting started. It’s AMAZING to be typing that I’m a member of the oldies crowd (?!?) Hummm, time flies! But, in no way am I surrendering ANYTHING :wink:

Hopefully I’ll tune-in to what’s going on at this site and have some fun figuring-out what’s up around here. This is my first post and I’m just now going to check out the site. I’m eager to learn what’s going on in the “world of memory.” Woo-Hoo!

Nice to meet ya’ll who are circling 'round 60. I look forward to reading more. Let’s give them thar whipper-snappers a run for their money. (Ooops, I got carried away.)


Thanks for all the replies and stories. It’s great to know we’re not all worrying whether life ends at 30! :balloon::sunglasses::joy:

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75 and going strong
My body feels it, but not my mind, unless I am dreaming this with some sort of dementia :slight_smile:


John R

Thanks for asking that question! I am 68 and my memory is improving with age with the help of mnemonics.
However, in the last year I really slowed down mentally and physically. I’m an avid bicyclist and my ability to ride took a dive. My average speed and mileage greatly decreased. Mentally, I became slower and my memorization speed slowed as well.
On October 1, I had open heart surgery to replace a severely stenosed aortic valve. Today is the 18th of November. I am regaining my speed mentally and physically. To feel mentally sharp again is wonderful.

So if you think you’re really slowing down, you could have a fixable problem causing your decline.


I am 63 years old
And I am a magician now using names and cards in my act
Great and a lot of fun
[email protected]


Hi Ella, interesting that you have a loci system of 66 with just fruits and veggies (by color?). I use a grocery store with 300 items in various topical Isles. On the top shelf is a regular priced product and on the center shelf is the product with a sale price tag, and on the bottom shelf is a store brand version (to give me 900 loci).

I’d be interested in a little more description of your veggie and fruit method to see if I could use it in the fruit and veggie isle of my store system to add items.

take care.



I am 67 and involved in lots of research into memory and memorising all sorts of stuff using a wide variety of methods. My memory is way better than it has ever been before. I am competing in the Australian Memory Championships as a Senior in a few days.

I am convinced that age is not a barrier to memory as long as we keep using it.


Hello. I’m only 46. My main hobby is solving Rubik’s Cubes. On the cubing forums we consider ourselves older at over 40 as it is very much a sport for youngsters with nimble fingers and lots of spare time for practice. However, on the blindfold events where memory is a factor us older guys are at less of a disadvantage. It’s encouraging to see from this thread that I have at least a couple of decades left in me.


Hello, youngster! :slight_smile:

And hello, LynneKelly, too. Your post is very inspiring. I’m sure you’re right about the importance of using our memories, and that age is not necessarily a crucial factor.

Good luck in the AMC!


This sounds like an interesting idea…except the supermarket we go to decided to shift a lot of items around recently, and now we can’t find anything. This method is also a bit tricky if you use items in your room, too, I find. There’s a tendency for furniture and other larger things to get shifted as time goes on. So you have to remember where they used. to be!

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Hi Mike!

Thanks for your interest in my fruits and veggies, ha. There are three forms for each type and there’s a location involved also:

On a treadmill inside a door are 3 “yellow corn” items. Traveling from left to right along the tread. 1) corn on the stalk, 2) corn meal in a sack, 3) cornbread on a plate. Next in that room is a desk and on the desk (left to right) are rows of yellow bell peppers growing, next is a slice of yellow bell pepper lying flat like a cops badge, and finally, on the floor next to the desk, is a bowl of chopped yellow bell peppers.

On the floor in front of a TV is a cow made of mango (Mr. Potato Head style), then to the right of that is a mango pit, then a glass of mango lassi on a bookshelf. Next comes 3 distinct forms of butternut squash, then 3 forms of pumpkins, 3 variations of orange bell peppers, to tangerines to gala apples to tomatoes to radishes, strawberries, beats, red onions, cabbage and so forth around the color wheel, ending up with celery (which is green tending back toward yellow).

So, really there are only 22 types of fruits/veggies but each comes in 3 forms for a total of 66. The general color progression works around the color wheel with yellow moving toward red toward blue, to green to yellow.

Green bell peppers lead to sno peas to green grapes to celery with he bell peppers being obviously more blue and the celery more toward yellow. So I start with corn and end with celery and there’s a distinct form of a fruit or veggie for each book of the Bible.

Later I added a location journey of 66 different buildings, one for each book of the Bible.
The book of Ephesians, for example, is a string of blueberries strung like a rope or necklace (it’s on a bed). Ephesians 6:12 is wrestling not against flesh and blood but against powers. The person associated with number six (for me) wrestles with the rope of blueberries using the item associated with the number 12 person to indicate it’s verse 12.

Since the book of Ephesians now also has a building location, I could have the action take place there but it’s easier to just wrestle with the blueberry rope for that verse. I ended up with TWO locations for each book of the Bible owing to my haphazard self-devised system that required (I thought) expansion. Fruit and veggies can go anywhere.

The book of John, for example, was originally red cabbage on a staircase but there’s not a lot of room there, so now I also have a building dedicated to the book of John. I can use the cabbage alone or in either location or I can leave the cabbage off if I don’t need it.

I think taste, color and texture will all help me. I’m certainly open to any suggestions!!!

Your grocery store idea sounds good to me. If they move stuff then I’d just have to remember where it used to be. It’d be my very own grocery store. I like the idea of full price, sale and store brand. It’s a great way to expand and it reminded me of my own 3-styles of one fruit/veggie.

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