K-State Research and Extension News
March 07, 2014
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Upcoming ‘Aging with Attitude’ Regional Expo in Parsons

The educational event for older adults, their families and caregivers will take place Friday, April 25.

PARSONS, Kan. – In 1988, in San Antonio, Texas, Mark Johnson gave a presentation to 350 students from across the state. Prior to the presentation, Johnson got to know the students and where they were from. Later, during his presentation, he had each student stand as he listed off each of their names—all 350 of them.

How did he do it? Chunking the students together in groups, according to the city in which they lived.

“Anyone can list off 10 to 20 names quickly,” Johnson said. “It’s just multiplying that more than 10 times.”

Johnson, a professor of technology and workforce learning at Pittsburg State University, has presented many times about the brain, memory and how to retrieve information. He will be a featured speaker at an upcoming one-day conference for older adults, their families and caregivers.

“What I’m able to do in a short period of time is get everyone to understand that we all have photographic memories,” Johnson said. “It just takes training and honing in those skills.”

The conference, titled “Aging with Attitude,” will take place Friday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Parsons. In addition to Johnson’s presentation on developing your photographic memory, health care reform also will be discussed.

Roberta Riportella, the Kansas Health Foundation professor of community health at Kansas State University, said she plans to cover many different topics in her presentation on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has affected Medicare: how Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage has changed by the ACA, what preventive health screenings are now available through Medicare because of the ACA, why Medicare beneficiaries should not sign up for insurance in the new Kansas Marketplace Exchange, and how the ACA affects adult children and grandchildren.

Other session topics will include estate planning, tips for exercising and sleeping, following a balanced diet, handling grief, budgeting and using social media responsibly. There also will be health sessions that focus on eye care and Alzheimer’s disease.

Registration is $15 per person and covers snacks, lunch, speaker fees and program materials. The pre-registration deadline is April 15. After the deadline, registration is $25 per person.

Go to Aging with Attitude Regional Expo for registration and program information or call the K-State Research and Extension Southeast Area office at 620-431-1530.

Sidebar: The Photographic Memory

Mark Johnson, professor of technology and workforce learning at Pittsburg State University, said most people can remember a time when they have seen a person, recognized his or her face, but can’t remember that person’s name.

“We have to tag, or label it, when we put it away in our memory,” Johnson said.

Associating faces and other images with words or names can help tag them so they are easier to retrieve from the memory later on, he said. As part of an exercise at an upcoming expo titled, “Aging with Attitude,” he will give the attendees a list of about 15 words and associate those words with a story. He will then start picking people out of the crowd and asking them to recite the list.

“It’s a pretty fascinating experience, because most people in the room will think they have a bad memory,” Johnson said. “Then all of the sudden they remember 15 words in three minutes or less.”

The expo where Johnson is presenting is a one-day event that will take place Friday, April 25 at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Parsons.

Many people associate getting older with losing their memory, Johnson said, but the memory is actually not slipping or doing less work.

“It’s the fact that we have more and more experiences,” he said. “Our brain doesn’t do a delete or a junk dump like we can do on a computer. The brain hangs onto it forever. So, as we get older, we have more experiences, more information and more things piling up.”

Even people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia have perfect memories, Johnson said. But, for whatever chemical or mechanical reason, their memory has become disconnected.

“If we didn’t have photographic memory, how can an 80-year-old lady tell you exactly what happened on her sixth birthday?” Johnson said. “She might not be able to tell you what she had for lunch yesterday or did last week, or maybe what your name is at the moment. It’s there, but it’s just not wired correctly to immediately access it.”

Most people have trouble remembering things, because they don’t practice, he said. If people keep their minds active, they will retain much more and be quicker at retrieving information.

Johnson knows all of his students at Pittsburg State University by name, and he teaches his students that the key to effective communication is connecting with their audience. Memorizing names helps.

“Who doesn’t want to be recognized by their name?” he said. “If you have a message, you want people to hear it. If they are going to hear it, you have to build that trust up and connect with them.”

Johnson said he looks forward to presenting at the “Aging with Attitude” expo and promises a dynamic, participatory and engaging experience for attendees, who will hopefully be able to show off their newly realized photographic memory skills.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Katie Allen
K-State Research & Extension News

Gayle Price, extension specialist, family and consumer sciences, southeast area – gprice@ksu.edu or 620-431-1530; or Mark Johnson – mjohnson@pittstate.edu or 620-235-4628