Draw your next grocery list. The research says you’ll remember more than if you write it.
seniors memory drawing happy

The good news is, you don’t have to know how to draw!

It’s the act of drawing, not the quality of the drawing, that aids seniors’ memory and helps you remember more.

That’s the conclusion of a study, The Surprising Influence of Drawing on Memory. The study, by Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D. Wammes, and Melissa E. Meade, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, was published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

The researchers studied young adult students, seniors and seniors with dementia. Participants in all the groups could remember more when they drew the words they would have to recall than when they wrote the words down – even repeatedly.

Even visualizing the meaning of the words, without writing or drawing them, was not as successful as drawing.

The difference was greater among seniors than among young adults. Even seniors with dementia were able to remember more by drawing than by writing the words. In other words, drawing helped seniors’ memory.

You really don’t have to know how to draw. Try it for yourself.

Here’s a short list of words. Make a picture of each.






Now here is my version of the list:

seniors memory drawing bread

seniors memory drawing of ketchup

seniors memory drawing of corn flakesseniors memory drawing of coffeeseniors memory drawing of chicken

Even simple drawings can help you remember more

As you can plainly see, the reputation of artists such as Michelangelo is under no threat from me. The point is, as long as the picture you draw represents a specific word to you, it will make sense and help you remember more.

While you’re at it, want to have some fun drawing?

True confession: I started my work life as a writer in the advertising business. In the mid-50s, a brilliant young art director from England teamed up with me. He and I ate lunch together every day. The little French restaurant we frequented provided us with an endless supply of plain paper placemats. And we drew all over them.

My art-director partner unlocked the gate to a life of joyful drawing for me. He taught me how to draw what he called, “no necks.”

The whole point of no-necks is to make them as simple and expressive as possible with as little real drawing as possible. This is what I mean:

seniors memory drawing happy

How’s that for “happy?”

seniors memory drawing not sure

And how’s this for, “I’m not sure?”

As you can see in these two drawings, where you put the pupil in the eye – combined with the expression of the mouth (even when it’s implied by the hand covering it) speaks volumes. Here are a few other pupil positions. It’s up to you to feel what they mean:

seniors memory drawing expressions

You can achieve the same range of expression by changing what you do with arms and legs and even the angle of the whole no-neck. Look at these:

seniors memory drawing expressions

How about starting now to express yourself by drawing? How about starting to remind yourself by drawing?

Let’s say you were out with your family today and want to remember the highlights. One might have been a tasty shishkabob.

seniors memory drawing food

Another could have been a grandchild’s delight with a special gift you gave her.

seniors memory drawing happy child

Or a free concert in a nearby park.

seniors-memory drawing concert park

If you draw these just after you return home and save these moments in a scrapbook or a binder, you’ll not only recall them so much more easily, you’ll find a permanent memory to share with others in the future.

I was talking to a friend about using drawing to aid his memory and he asked, “If I want to remember North Bay, how would I draw that?” Well, like this, perhaps.

seniors memory north bay

As long as the picture you make means something to you, that’s all that matters.

Once you feel sure of yourself making drawings…and the people you show them to learn how you express yourself in pictures…you can even start drawing your own personal greeting cards.

anniversary seniors memory

Very few things can give you the instant gratification of drawing.

So pick up a pencil or a pen and start now.

And don’t forget – when it comes to seniors’ memory – drawing can help you remember more!

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