We’ve all misplaced keys, blanked on someone’s name, or forgotten a phone number. When you’re young, you don’t tend to pay much attention to these lapses, but as you grow older, you may worry about what they mean. Perhaps you start to talk about a movie you saw recently when you realize you can’t remember the title. You’re giving directions to your house when you suddenly blank on a familiar street name. Or you find yourself standing in the middle of the kitchen wondering what you went in there for. Memory lapses can be frustrating, but most of the time they aren’t cause for concern. Age-related memory changes are not the same thing as dementia and Alzheimers.
As you grow older, you experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions you’ve always taken for granted. It takes longer to learn and recall information. You’re not as quick as you used to be. In fact, you may mistake this slowing of your mental processes for true memory loss. But in most cases, if you give yourself time, the information will come to mind. So, while it’s true that certain brain changes are inevitable when it comes to aging, major memory problems are not one of them. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between normal age-related forgetfulness and the symptoms that may indicate a developing cognitive problem.
For most people, occasional lapses in short-term memory are a normal part of the aging process, not a warning sign of serious mental deterioration or the onset of Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
The following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:
- Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
- Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.
- Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
- Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation.
- Not quite being able to retrieve information you have “on the tip of your tongue.”
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and the more serious symptoms that indicate dementia. MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, but the line between MCI and normal memory problems is not always a clear one. The difference is often one of degrees. For example, it’s normal as you age to have some problems remembering the names of people. However, it’s not normal to forget the names of your close family and friends and then still be unable to recall them after a period of time.
Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower your risk of mental decline. Try to find brain exercises that you find enjoyable. The more pleasurable an activity is to you, the more powerful its effect will be on your brain. You can make some activities more enjoyable by appealing to your senses—by playing music during the exercise, for example, or lighting a scented candle, or rewarding yourself after you’ve finished.
Here are some ideas for brain exercise, from light workouts to heavy lifting:
- Play games you are not already familiar with that involve strategy, like chess or bridge, and word games like Scrabble. Try crossword and other word puzzles, or number puzzles such as Sudoku.
- Read newspapers, magazines, and books that challenge you.
- Get in the habit of learning new things: games, recipes, driving routes, a musical instrument, a foreign language. Take a course in an unfamiliar subject that interests you. The more interested and engaged your brain, the more likely you’ll be to continue learning and the greater the benefits you’ll experience.
- Improve how well you do existing activities. If you already speak a foreign language, commit to improving your fluency. Or if you’re a keen golfer, aim to lower your handicap.
- Take on a project that involves design and planning, such as a new garden, a quilt, or a koi pond.
Completeness in life can be defined as the beautiful balancing of both the mental and physical characteristics of this gift known as life.
Peace and Love, Jim
Buy Me A Coffee – A Easy Way To support The Daily Buddha!
The Daily Buddha – Support The Server
You must log in to post a comment.