Helpful gadgets for a fuzzy memory

Just because you experience a wee bit of forgetfulness from time to time, it doesn’t mean your memory is failing; it’s just prone to the effects of aging. “Memory starts to weaken once we hit our 30s. Add a few more decades and plenty of important information to keep track of — like busy schedules, medication regimens, and monthly bills — and you’ll notice memory changes more keenly,” says Dr. Andrew Budson, a neurologist and chief of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at VA Boston Healthcare System.

Fortunately, there are lots of gadgets that support memory. Get some for yourself or give a few tools to a friend. After all, who wouldn’t want to unwrap a little memory boost?

Basic reminders

In the medical world, gadgets that provide reminders are known as external memory aids. Some examples:

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A talking motion-activated sensor. (Cost: about $25.) This device allows you to record a reminder message that will play automatically when you walk by (and trigger) the sensor. For example, you could record, “Don’t forget your wallet,” and place the sensor by your front door; or “Drink more water,” and keep the sensor by the refrigerator.

A voice recorder or a voice-recording pen or watch. (Cost: $30 to $50.) These devices record your voice, or someone else’s, at the touch of a button. That’s handy for making lists or capturing important points from a conversation (perhaps with a doctor) that you can write down later. Make sure others in a conversation agree to being recorded.

Office supplies. (Cost: $5 to $50.) “There’s no reason to memorize your to-do list or upcoming appointments. If an external memory aid can help you, take advantage of it,” Dr. Budson advises. He suggests using wipe boards and dry-erase markers, pads and pens, colorful sticky notes, calendars, or daily planners. Get a nice selection of these tools to sprinkle throughout the house. When it comes to calendars, get one that’s large, with easy-to-see numbers and extra room to write notes on each day of the week.

Homes for everyday objects

One of the best ways to remember where you’ve left objects like keys or glasses is to keep them in a predetermined spot. “If you put your wallet in the same place every day, it becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, you don’t need to think about where it is, just like you don’t need to think about how to ride a bike,” Dr. Budson explains.

Here are two tools that support this habit:

Key hooks and mini shelves. (Cost: $10 to $20.) Install these by your door or another spot in your home, and use them regularly.

Doorknob organizers. (Cost: $10). These look like do-not-disturb signs with pockets on them. Hang one on your doorknob and store things you want to grab on the way out of the house, such as keys or driving glasses — remembering to return the items to the organizer when you get home.

Medication managers

Juggling a medication regimen is challenging, no matter how many pills you’re taking. If a standard pillbox isn’t working for you, consider using one of these:

Automatic pill dispenser. (Cost: $10 to $100.) Load pills into this organizer and it will dole them out at the right time and in the right amounts. Some dispensers sound alarms or use smartphone apps to alert you about pill-taking time.

Medication alarm. (Cost: $25 to $50.) If you prefer, skip automatic dispensing and just use a digital alarm to let you know when it’s time to take various medications. Smartphones and watches also allow you to set regular alarms for different times throughout the day. Whichever style of alarm you choose, look for one with large numbers and backlighting, so you can see the numbers easily.

Even more memory helpIn addition to getting gadgets that help support memory, such as electronic reminders or automatic pill dispensers, consider taking a class to learn memory strategies.Seek out memory training programs in group or individual sessions with a clinician. The best places to look for such training are medical centers. They’ll have programs run by health professionals with expertise in cognitive rehabilitation.Or consider taking the Harvard Health Publishing online class Cognitive Fitness (/cogfitcourse). The class explores decades of research on cognitive health and shares the pillars of brain health that help sustain good brain function and cognitive fitness (the ability to learn, reason, remember, and adapt your thinking processes) into old age.


If you often wind up hunting for your glasses, TV remote, or other objects, small tracking devices can help. You simply attach a tracker to an object, and then the tracker sends signals to your smartphone, showing the object’s location on a map.

If you’re not tech-savvy, there are trackers that send signals to a remote control device; if you lose the object, you click the remote and it makes the tracker emit a loud sound, leading you to the lost item.

Trackers come in several forms:

Eyeglasses trackers. (Cost: $35 and up.) These are small strips you attach to the long part of the frame worn over your ear.

Keychain-style trackers. (Cost: $20 and up.) These are small, flat devices (an inch or two wide) with a large hole so you can add them to key rings or tie them to objects (like household tools, sports equipment, or a bicycle). You can also just slip a tracker into your luggage, purse, or backpack.

Wallet trackers. (Cost: $30.) These trackers are about the size and shape of a credit card and work well in a wallet, purse, or any bag.

Tracker stickers. (Cost: $25 and up.) These are small, flat round trackers (an inch or two wide) with adhesive backing. They’re handy to stick on TV remotes as well as laptops, earbud cases, pillboxes, and more.

Note: Trackers have limited ranges, such as 150 to 400 feet. They also use batteries, which last a year or two.


If you’re tech-savvy, smartphones already come loaded with many of the devices we’ve mentioned, such as calendars, notepads, voice recorders, and alarms.

You can also download apps designed to hold important information (such as passwords) or manage your medications. Popular medication reminder apps include Medisafe ( and My Therapy Pill Reminder ( Both are available in the Android or Apple app stores.

Final advice

“Choose a memory aid that can make a difference in your life. Don’t be seduced by a fancy appearance or features you don’t need. Look for good, basic functionality,” Dr. Budson advises.

“And if you’re using these tools and you still can’t find anything or track appointments, it may be time to talk to your doctor about your memory,” Dr. Budson suggests. “It could be that an underlying condition, medication side effect, or vitamin deficiency is causing your cognitive challenges.”

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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