• Mallory Garber

Why Time Capsules are Great for Dementia Related Charities |NotForgotten

Billions of people are impacted by charities everyday. There are more meaningful donations you can give than just a check.

Charity is defined as “the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.” Even though the world we live in is overall getting healthier and wealthier, there are always going to be people in need and charities give those who are more fortunate a structured way to give help. There is an overall satisfaction that comes from giving for both the giver and the receiver. No act of kindness goes unnoticed. It is hard to write about charities without sounding like an inspirational speaker, but all the sayings are true! By helping just one person you are making a difference.

If you have not read my past blogs, you should know that a common trend threaded throughout each one is that humans ultimately rely on each other. Whether it be for advice, history, the truth, memories…they all come from what we give one another. This is all especially relevant in this blog when it comes to charities.

You might be surprised by just how many Americans are impacted by the dementia related diseases which charities support. For example in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease. The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond the age of 65. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060. Triple to 14 million! Can you believe that? I know it’s easy to get lost in all the numbers, but each and every number represents a person.

One of those families impacted by this awful disease are the Gallagher’s in the UK. Leah Gallagher is a client of NotForgotten, a time capsule company that stores memories digitally for up to 300 years. Alzheimer’s runs in Leah’s family. Her reasoning for making a time capsule was mainly for herself. She did not want to forget the precious years of her youth. Leah wanted to make sure she would be able to look back and remember all the good times she had.

“I want to be able to look back at who I was and how I’ve grown, and I am quite into self reflection. So I have done NotForgotten as a self reflection and to be able to give a little present to myself when I am 80.”

Memory is about the past. It is your personal database of things you have experienced. Like old photographs, everyone’s memories fade, and worse — they fade quickly. We all know it’s harder to remember things from a long time ago compared to more recent events. But memory rot (degradation) actually starts to happen immediately following an event. People remember visual scenes, but the vibrancy of recall dims in just a few minutes.

Memories are important to us as a species — they are used to help us PLAN. Being able to picture the past enables us to imagine the future, and therefore plan — one of the complex cognitive feats that stands humans apart from many other species.

So why then do we lose our memories? … Most adults suffer from childhood amnesia ie not being able to remember their first 3 1/2 years. But as we age, health, education, outliving our brains (simple wear and tear if you’d like) and of course disease are all factors that destroy our memories.

“As we age our bodies simply aren’t adapted to living quite as long as we do” says Aoife Kiely from UK charity the Alzheimer’s Society. “the neurons you are born with are pretty much the ones you are going to live your whole life with”, she says. “It is certainly an issue of wear and tear of the brain.” As we age, we lose many of the connections between these neurons, and immune cells in the brain can also begin to run amok.

But most notably, forgetting is a deliberate act on the part of our minds. Forgetting does not just happen by accident. Active processes in our brains are WORKING everyday hard to make us forget. But why should the brain invest energy in undoing its own memories? The issue isn’t storage space: given the number of cells and connections in the brain, there is reason to think we could remember much more than we do. The issue is that memories are designed to fade.

There are a number of reasons this happens: