Most of the time, you can easily distinguish between the taste of red and white wine, or jazz music and hard rock. But sometimes words can escape you and you experience a period of forgetfulness.
Whether it’s the name of the music itself of the words used to describe it, your semantic memory might fail. It’s frustrating because you can see it in your mind’s eye and know just what it’s called.
Your semantic memory is where you store facts. It’s the source of your vocabulary and how you know what something does. It’s all about knowledge and not experience. The 50 states, for example, are stored in your semantic memory. The memory of your 20th anniversary trip to the Grand Canyon is part of your episodic memory.
Although you might forget where you learned something, the facts will likely remain. Even in old age. There is research to suggest that episodic memory does not decline with age. It may lose some sharpness, but that may be more a result of the fact that learning can taper off with age than a natural-age related regression.
So, how can you keep remembering facts and maintain and grow your knowledge base? By continuing to cultivate your semantic (and episodic by default) memory by learning new things.
You can exercise your semantic memory by playing recall games like naming the 50 states, then progressively attempting to recall more challenging words and information. Leaning new information by playing crossword puzzles, travelling, trying out a new language, or reading can all help expand your knowledge base and brush up semantic memory.
One important thing to remember as you’re learning is to really pay attention. Truly try and understand what you’re leaning as opposed to simply trying to drill information into your head. Attempt to relate new information to things you already know, which can lead to faster recall and potentially even bring back memories you might have forgotten.
Keeping your mind active so you’re regularly learning and recalling information can get the words rolling off your tongue instead of stopping at the tip.