Once one has mastered a task so that it can be performed adequately, it's often instinctive to put the process on the backburner. Millions of people do this everyday, so that they can fall into a routine of behaviors and activities without really pushing themselves.
Memory expert Joshua Foer recently referred to this pattern in AARP.org as the "OK Plateau."
"If you want to become a faster typist, it’s possible, of course, but you've got to bring the task back under your conscious control.
You've got to push yourself past your comfort zone," he explains.
The same principle applies to memory. When going to a party at a senior living community, where there are sure to be a number of strangers, try to learn a certain number of names. Each occasion - be it a wedding, dinner or golf - try to keep pushing that number until it's possible to learn the name of every person there.
After mastering this task, Foer suggests that one should try to start categorizing and remembering specific information about each acquaintance - their children's names, their hobbies and interests. The really tricky part is retention, as older adults should not only strive to learn all of these facts, they should be able to recall them a week later.