As someone who has traveled all over the world for his job at the Associated Press and for his service during the Vietnam War, Robert makes it a point to keep up with the news every day. Every morning, he receives and reads the Inquirer over breakfast or lunch. He also maintains a running subscription to Time, which he’s held since 1964. A habit formed in childhood, he explains, “[reading the news] is routine and instinctive and just something I’ve always done, so I continue to do it.” He says his MCI hasn’t affected it yet. “I read a lot and I seem to remember what I read pretty clearly.”
Every day, Robert also makes it a point to practice guitar. A habit started in retirement, guitar was something Robert made time for after his travels for work ended. He now practices for half an hour most days and attends lessons once a week. In comparison to his daily habit of reading the news, Robert says playing guitar is an activity he does to keep him on his toes. “It’s a mind exercise, but it’s also a discipline exercise,” he explains. “Playing guitar is muscle memory. You’re training your hand to go to the right strings.” Like how he’s training his fingers, Robert is also training his mind through his daily activities because he views it as something he can work hard at to improve.
For example, Robert plays card games like bridge on a weekly basis “specifically to keep [his] mind sharp.” He attributes the lack of problems he’s encountered in the games to practice. “The more you play, the better off you are,” he says. “[Strategy] really is good for your mind.” In addition, Robert keeps the body that houses his brain in good condition by going to the gym nearly every day, even when he’s in Florida, where he spends six months during the winters. The purpose of training on the elliptical or with weights is “to get my heart rate up and keep me ticking.” These demanding mental and physical activities form the backbone of Robert’s day-to-day life.
Robert does concede his memory is not as sharp as it used to be. But he says he hasn’t seen any challenges emerging in his daily life because of it. He says, “If I have this cognitive memory loss, it is extremely minimal. I remember in great detail things from my childhood. I remember in great detail growing up and going through things and meeting people. I’ve always had a good memory of people's faces. I’ve always had a poor memory of people’s names. It takes me a while to bring the name back, but once I see someone I never forget them.”
His wife, Marge, however, disagrees with his assessment of his memory. “She recognize[s] things that I don't remember or we don’t remember the same things the same way,” Robert says. These discrepancies often come up when he’s driving and recalling directions.
Looking into the future, Robert says, “I would hate to lose my memories. I would hate to get lost and not remember where I am.” However, because he hasn’t faced that prospect quite yet, he notes, “I don’t have a great deal of fears of memory loss.”