Interview with Dr. Bill Klemm, “Memory Medic”

Dear Readers,

I don’t normally run endorsements of other people’s books, but I decided to make an exception for this one. It’s written by one of my old professors, and it’s about how science can help you improve your memory. Back when I was in college, I read Dr. Klemm’s first book on memory, “Thank You Brain,” and it helped me to make some radical changes to my study habits. It was super helpful, and I still use many of his tips to this day. Below is a Q&A by Dr. Klemm, and a link to his new book.


“Improve Your Memory for a Healthy Brain. Memory is the Canary in Your Brain’s Coal Mine.”


Why did you write this book?

I am a neuroscientist, and have always had an interest in memory. Early on, the interest was there because memory skills made school and college easier to master. Later, I got into research and actually did memory experiments on rats and college students. As I got older, I wanted to stay mentally healthy as long as I could. I see so many of my older friends slipping mentally. It is so sad, and I wanted to do what I can to help people from reaching a stage of mental deterioration. Because I follow the memory research literature anyway, I wanted to share the helpful findings that scientists have been discovering over the last few decades.

I understand it is an e-book. Why did you choose that format?

That makes it inexpensive. Everybody should be able to afford it. Besides, in e-format it is easy to search around for reminders and topics you want to look up. The book is available at Amazon, but at you can get it in any e-format, including pdf.

Why do you say that memory is the canary in the brain’s coal mine?

Many decades ago, before there was technology to detect accumulation of toxic gases in coal mines, miners used to put a caged canary in the mine with them. If they canary keeled over, it was time to get out. Well, memory is like that. Declining ability for remembering is a sign that brain damage has occurred. In this case, by the time you notice a problem, it may be too late. The good news is that training your memory is very effective exercise for the brain, and such exercise of the brain builds robust circuitry that accumulates as a cognitive reserve as one ages.

People are living so much longer and so much grief is happening in families because of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. How does memory training apply here?

Research demonstrates that though memory training may not prevent dementia, it surely delays it and allows more years of normal brain function. 

How does memory exercise and training help delay brain aging?

You could make an analogy to how weight lifting builds muscles. Only brain uses different mechanisms. Whenever the brain forms a lasting memory, the brain has to create new circuitry to hold the representation of that memory. The storage space is created by changing the synaptic weightings of the neural circuits that will house that memory representation. By synaptic weighting, I mean basically a “souping up” of the pathways so that the circuit is preferentially re-set for that particular memory. The weighting has to be achieved by greater neurotransmitter activity. This requires gene activation to grow synaptic junctions and to augment the enzyme systems needed for more transmitter. These gene expression changes create real anatomical and chemical changes. Changing memory changes brain. In terms of aging, this means that a large store of memories creates more circuitry, which means the brain can do more things. This can be essentially a “cognitive reserve” that compensates for physical deterioration that might be occurring. An example is that autopsies of some people have shown that their brains had the lesions of Alzheimer’s Disease, but they never showed clinical symptoms because they had been so mentally active all their life.

Why don’t more people make a conscious effort to improve their memory?

I am baffled. Maybe part of the answer is that any kind of change is hard. Another factor is that many people do not believe they can improve their mental and memory capability. They likely do not know how to improve memory ability, which of course is a main reason I wrote the book. I see this problem even in the young, particularly college students who trap themselves and persist in bad learning strategies and habits, even after I show them a better way. They seem set in their ways, in spite of being young.

How does the information in this book apply to you personally?

I turn 81 this July and think I can document that I am mentally at the top of my game. All my life I have learned about and used memory enhancement ideas. Although this life has been an experiment with n=1, I think the results are more than coincidence. And research involving other people that I describe in the book supports this conclusion.

W.R. Klemm, “Memory Medic,” has two other memory books: Memory Power 101, a general-audience book on improving memory, and Better Grades, Less Effort, an e-book on learning and memory tips for students. You can learn more at his website,

Hunger & seniors, happiness & aging, caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, and smart phones


Hunger is a big problem for lots of seniors.

We get happier as we age.

Tips for caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

Europe is getting senior-friendly smart phones.  When will we get them over here?

Day 144: Grocery Shopping” © 2012 SodanieChea, Attribution 3.0 Generic

Getting better at getting older, taxes & CCRCs, Medicare denials, and brain changes


A new study shows that the older we get, the better we get at getting older. (More on this subject.)

There are tax implications of moving to a CCRC.  Here’s a primer on them (it’s sort of complicated, so I’d suggest taking it to your accountant.)

If you’ve had a claim denied by Medicare, don’t give up; here are some tips to help you win your appeal.

Brain changes in seniors might explain why scams are more common in the elderly. (Here’s more.)

“swim meet” © 2004 jonfeinstein, Attribution 3.0 Generic


Publish your thoughts on Senior Housing

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We’re growing our content and looking for your help.  If you’re an industry insider, consider contributing your advice to seniors!  We’re looking for content from the following sources:

  • Seniors: Did you recently move into a retirement community?  Have you remodeled your home so that you won’t have to move?  We want to hear your stories.  Offer advice to your fellow movers, and help them get the most out of their experience.
  • Retirement Communities: Do you see potential residents make the same mistakes over and over again when moving into your community?  Do you have advice to give?  What are some things that residents should consider before picking a community?  What’s the best way for new residents to become involved in the social life at their new community?
  • Retirement Professionals: If you are a financial advisor or estate planner for seniors looking for retirement communities, we’re looking for information about pitfalls associated with the financial aspects of moving.  What other financial issues must be considered prior to the move to senior housing?  What role do power of attorney and living will documents play in the move to senior housing?
  • Health Care Professionals: Are you a doctor or nurse that specializes in the care of seniors?  We’re especially interested in information regarding assisted living, home health, and nursing homes and how to get the best care for ailing loved ones.

The best length is between 400 and 600 words, and we’ll link to your site and/or include your corporate logo in the post.  Email submissions to

*We reserve the right to edit articles for length and content and to not publish articles that are inappropriate for the site.

Biking & Parkinson’s, fighting parents, long term care plans, and hiring the right movers


Biking has been shown to improve symptoms of Parkinson’s.

When your elderly parents fight: Is it a sign of a normal marriage or that something is wrong?

More than half of Americans aged 45-54 don’t have any long term care plans

Hiring the right movers can make all the difference when downsizing to senior housing.

“Bike” © 2010 Sheffield Tiger, Attribution 3.0 Generic


What is an aging in place consultant? Should you hire one?

Note: This post originally appeared at If you’re interested in providing articles for, please see our submission guidelines.


An accident, stroke, or other debilitating disease can make a person a stranger in his or her own home. Stairways, bathrooms, and even bedrooms become obstacles in the daily routine. This makes living with a disability challenging and frustrating, and can lead to expensive stays in assisted living facilities.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.  Proper home modifications can help seniors stay independent in their homes.

Although many home modifications can be as simple as installing grab bars in the shower or ramps at stairways, others require more complex installations like stair lifts or elevators. No matter how difficult the installation may be, an aging in place consultant can help in most situations.

Here are some things that you should know: 

  • It’s not that expensive.   A common misconception is that hiring an accessibility consultant is more costly than hiring a home remodeler or even a handyman for the simple stuff. The truth is, an experienced professional will perform a complete home assessment that considers all aspects of the disability and how it relates to home modifications that are needed now, as well as in the future, as the disability progresses. Planning for the future can save money in the long run as additional home modifications become necessary. 
  • You might avoid double modifications.  Installing a stair lift when an elevator will be needed in a year or two will result in two modifications instead of one. By installing the elevator in the beginning, it will not only save time and money; it will make the person with the disability AND the caregiver safer and more comfortable from the outset. 
  • You can avoiding common installation problems. Accessibility consultants know that installing a grab bar can be a simple procedure but if the backing behind the wall isn’t reinforced before installation, it could become a safety issue if the mounting fails. 
  • Consultants have special knowledge. Many accessibility consultants are familiar with the latest Home Medical Equipment products and can provide the best ramp and walker/wheelchair combination. They also know that a threshold ramp will be needed at doorways instead of just a ramp for stairways. Most construction remodelers don’t have the experience with the special needs of a person with a disability to understand all of the issues involved.

Finding the best person or company to perform a home modification for a senior or person with a disability has become easier in recent years with the advent of the CAPS Program. CAPS stands for “Certified Aging in Place Specialist.”

The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) is a designation program by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) that teaches the technical skills essential for home modifications for “aging in place”. The NAHB Remodelers™ Council, in collaboration with the AARP, NAHB Research Center, and NAHB Senior Housing Council, developed the Certified Aging in Place Specialist program to provide comprehensive, practical, market-specific information about working with older and maturing adults to remodel their homes for aging-in-place. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) has been trained in:

  • the unique needs of the older adult population
  • aging-in-place home modifications
  • common remodeling projects
  • solutions to common barriers

The Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation is a reliable way to identify professionals to modify your home. Don’t let the “senior” label fool you, the CAPS designation is the standard most accessibility consultants follow for all home modifications that increase safety and accessibility in the home. To find a CAPS in your state, visit the NAHB web site at

Accessible Design & Consulting is California’s leading Barrier-Free Specialist; they provide legant residential and commercial barrier-free designs and accessories for seniors and people with disabilities. Contact Accessible for more information about your next renovation: (866) 902-9800 (Toll Free) or (310) 215-3332 (Local).

Tablets & reading, scam artists, becoming a novelist, and hip replacement surgery


Seniors like tablet computers because they make reading easier.

This is news that you hear hundreds of times: Scam artists increasingly target elderly victims.

You’re never too old to be a novelist!

Hip replacement is a pretty complicated surgery.  Here are some tips for caring for a loved one who has just gotten home from the hospital.

“love read” © 2007 luis de bethencourt, Attribution 3.0 Generic

Assisted living & medication, scam prevention, home safety, and brain pacemakers

There’s a free scam prevention book online.

Want to make your home safer?  Here are a few tips.

Scientists are testing brain “pacemakers” for Alzheimer’s patients.