Aging is a natural process of growth and life. It’s a fact and should be faced head on. But, are there ways to keep your memory function as you age?
As you age, it is natural that your memory is not going to be as good as it used to be. If you have children, you may notice how well their memory functions.
However, as you move further into adulthood, you may find that your memory is decreased. In fact, it is known that most people experience decreases in their ability to learn new things and remember them as they age.
Part of these changes in memory can be related to lack of attention as your focus is divided into so many different areas.
For example, if you are a working parent, sometimes it can be overwhelming to remember all the appointments for the whole family.
You need to know who needs to go where and when. That is why using a calendar becomes extremely important. This would be considered normal memory problems.
Another reason for the increased difficulty in remembering things as you age is also biological. The brain changes and those areas related to memory are also affected with mild impairments occurring in memory.
The ability to process information and to react to it slows, as does the ability to multi-task. However, with a little more effort to learn and remember new things as you age, it is still possible.
However, it is important to note that the cognitive and biological changes were seen in normal aging are not the same as those seen in abnormal cognitive changes that occur due to dementias such as Alzheimer’s, for example.
Here are some ways to identify normal forgetfulness from abnormal forgetfulness:
1. The passage of time
The passing of time is often to blame for decreased memory in normal aging. In other words, if you do not think about particular memories often, there is a greater chance of forgetting them.
If the event was not of huge importance to you, there is also a greater chance of forgetting the details surrounding the event. This is normal.
The memories that you call upon more often will be retained more easily. However, if you don’t use those memories, you lose them.
Abnormal forgetfulness, on the other hand, is when you cannot recall recent events such as what you ate for breakfast or who visited you that day.
2. Stressful events
If you are asked to recall events from a time of stress in your life, it is likely due to normal memory lapses. During times of stress, your brain has a harder time storing information.
If this is the second time that you tell your daughter the same story in two weeks, this is more likely due to normal forgetfulness.
However, if you tell your daughter the same story during a visit lasting thirty minutes, that is not normal.
Normal forgetfulness includes not remembering the exact date but having a general idea of the time of the month, and the problem-solving ability to look the date up on the most recent edition of the newspaper you received that morning. Someone with abnormal memory will not even know what year it is.
5. Self-care abilities
If you experience some forgetfulness but are still able to remember to wash and dress, to eat, to go to the grocery store, to take your medications (you may need to use a pill box as a personal reminder), your memory is likely still within normal ranges for your age.
However, if you do not remember how to do these tasks or even that they need to be done, then that is abnormal.
It is normal to get lost in unfamiliar locations, such as when you are visiting a new area of your city. However, it is not normal to get lost and not remember familiar locations such as your own neighborhood or who your family members are.
7. Frustration levels
Someone with normal forgetfulness is not likely to get angry or upset when reminded of something.
People with abnormal forgetfulness will often display denial, anger, or defensiveness when reminded or when faced with questions that test their memory for dates, places, and more.
They may even accuse you of stealing something that they lost and cannot locate.
Adjusting to an Aging Mind
As our brains age, we’re less likely to think as quickly or remember things as well as we used to.
Research is now showing how the brain changes and adapts with age. You can use what we’ve learned and follow a few simple tips to help remember things and avoid scams.
Dr. Denise C. Park, director of the Royal Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Illinois, explains that the knowledge we gain from life experience can sometimes compensate for other changes in our brains as we age.
Older professionals can often be better at their jobs than younger ones. “Your memory may be less efficient,” Park says, “but your knowledge about how to do it may be better.”
Researchers can design tests that expose problems in the aging mind by creating tasks in which older adults can’t use their experience.
These tests reflect real-life situations like getting upsetting medical news or having a crafty scam artist pressure you for an answer.
One key to dealing with situations like these, Park says, is not to make rash decisions. Ask for further information and more time to consider. Discuss it with friends or relatives.
Perhaps the most common trouble people face as they age is remembering things. Park says it’s important to acknowledge that your memory is fallible.
“For medicines, driving directions or other things with specific details, don’t rely on your memory,” she says. “That’s good advice for everybody, but especially for older adults.”
Connecting Aging and Memory
It is a well-known fact that aging will affect memory for many different reasons. Family members, friends, spouses, and careers all suffer because of aging and memory loss.
Loss of memory seems to be a part of life that may sneak up on a person, gradually growing worse until it is finally acknowledged as being serious to warrant attention.
One of the least-heard-of ways people are affected by the loss of memory is called male menopause. It seems to be more of an issue to keep the health problems affecting men a secret than it is for women. The male pride can be extremely sensitive in the areas of failing health.
The first memory that seems to be affected by aging is the short-term memory. It is easy to assume that one may be in the first stages of Alzheimer’s when memory loss begins to occur.
Indeed, some may laugh at the idea of male menopause. After all, everyone knows menopause is something women endure, right? Unfortunately, this is not at all true.
Most men just never seek help for this condition because of not being aware of their feelings on a conscious level. Men are taught to put their emotions aside because to openly acknowledge them is perceived as a sign of weakness.
Forgetfulness is at the beginning of the list of changes occurring later in life. The mental processes are slowing down. We begin to run low on hormones after the age of 40.
There is a steroid hormone that the body will normally produce, using cholesterol as its main raw material. It converts into other steroids the body uses. The level of this hormone declines with age.
Low doses such as 10-30 mg a day have been shown to be a memory enhancer with a punch!
Possibly the most powerful memory enhancer of all, it is also an anti-inflammatory aid which helps arthritic conditions when given at high doses of 400-500 mg per day.
Other benefits of this hormone increased energy levels, balanced hormone levels, and repair to the sheath that covers neurons in the central nervous system.
Many women are able to laugh and joke with others about the effects of menopause, especially the memory loss.
It may be harder to notice memory loss caused by menopause simply because women and men are both caught up in working and rearing their children. This causes preoccupation of the mind, due to the busy lifestyles.
Aging and memory loss are no joke. Certainly, and even those who are able to find the humor in it may secretly be covering for the frustration it actually causes in their day-to-day lives.
Forgetting can be a scary, intimidating part of the aging process. Once it becomes such a problem that the elderly are faced with their loss of independence, it is certainly no longer a joke to one of them.
It can cause life-threatening confusion, sometimes causing them to wander away from home and get lost, cause a vehicle accident by wandering into the street or subject them to the fierce elements of nature.
Easy Tips for Maintaining Memory Function
Your brain is an extremely powerful tool and it has an amazing ability to adapt and change, regardless of your age. This ability to adapt is known as neuroplasticity.
This is a natural process which you can harness to increase your cognitive skills, and improve both your learning ability and memory.
One of the first things you need to pay attention to is your sleep patterns. It is so important to allow your body to sleep as it is critical when it comes to both learning and memory.
In addition getting adequate exercise also gets your brain into tip-top shape. When you exercise your body you are also exercising your brain. Exercise helps to improve the chemicals in your brain and to protect your brain cells.
Everyone leads a busy lifestyle these days and you need to make time for socializing with your friends. Life would be very boring with spending time with friends and having some fun.
Just the act of socializing with your friends can boost your memory. Interacting with others has shown to be one of the best brain exercises you can do.
A Harvard research study showed that people who had active social lives encountered the slowest rate of memory decline.
While meeting with your friends is great, it is not always possible to get together at convenient times. So if a friend isn’t available, why not socialize with your pet.
Laughter is the best medicine and this is very true when it comes to your brain. When you laugh you use multiple areas of your brain and you activate areas that play an important role in learning and creativity.
Not sure what to laugh about? Try laughing at yourself by not taking yourself so seriously. Find people who are fun and hang out with them.
Another way to lighten your mood is to keep a fun toy on your desk or a fun poster on your wall.
One of the worst enemies for your brain is stress. If you allow your stress levels to build it can actually destroy your brain cells.
It also damages an area of the brain called the hippocampus. This is the region where new memories are formed and where old ones are retrieved.
If you need to remember something important, write it down on a pad or use an electronic device like cellphone or tablet that lets you store notes and reminders.
Another way to remember things is through routines. Take your medicine with a snack or a particular meal, for example. Always keep your keys and wallet in the same place.
You can also use your imagination. If you imagine doing something beforehand, Park says, you’re much more likely to do it.
So, for example, imagine taking your medicine in as much detail as you can, paying attention to where, when and how.
Practice can help, too. Rehearse talking to a salesperson. Visit somewhere new in advance.
Keeping your brain active with activities that require mental effort, such as reading, may help keep your mind sharp. Staying physically active may help, too.
All of these above points have one thing in common. And that is working on leading a healthy lifestyle that includes eating right, exercising and making time to be with your friends.