Memory and Aging

Many people begin to worry about their memory as they grow older. Especially if they recently forgot where they left their keys or couldn’t remember what they needed at the store. But when is it time to be concerned?

Some changes in the brain are associated with the aging process. But major memory loss is not one of them.

Two Aging Brain Changes That Impact Memory

1. Processing Information

book open to pages with glasses lying across pages

One of the changes that may result from an aging brain could be taking longer to learn or process information. With normal aging, most tasks can be completed but longer time is needed.

Examples of changes in information processing that can occur:

  • Reading – needing to re-read parts of a news article more than once to fully understand what is being reported.
  • Driving – requires a lot of information to be processed and adapting to changes in traffic patterns, new roadways or construction diversions can take more time.

Julie’s Expert Tips: To allow for more processing time while driving, reduce your speed and travel during non-peak traffic times.

2. Problem Solving

day planner with ink pen to help with memory

We may experience difficulty with problem solving or critical thinking as we age.  For example, losing the power in your home and not being able to troubleshoot for managing and resolving the issue.

Other examples of common memory “glitches” associated with aging:

  • Occasionally forgetting where you left something such as glasses or keys.
  • Forgetting someone’s name or blocking a memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.  
  • Occasionally missing an appointment or forgetting to pay a bill.
  • Becoming easily distracted or having difficulty remembering details of a recent conversation.
  • Not being able to recall information you have “on the tip of your tongue.”

Julie’s Expert Tips: Write down all appointments and billing due dates on a calendar. Store frequently used items, such as keys, in the same location between uses.

What Can I Do?

First, don’t become anxious or alarmed by occasional incidents of forgetfulness. Stress can actually raise the levels of cortisol in your body which, if sustained over a long period of time, can impact memory.

Friends and Family Check

Have you had a change in your memory? Talk to a friend or family member about it and ask them if they have seen an increase in forgetfulness when being around you.

Physical Health and Memory

If you’re experiencing physical changes such as fatigue, weakness or other changes, it may be a sign that the memory changes are due to a medical problem. Talk to your physician about your concerns. They will be able to provide some direction and help decide on a need for further action.

headshot of Julie Uhrig

About the author: Julie Uhrig is an RN and the Director of Care Coordination for Confident Living. She helps members navigate the health care system and get the services they need to age well in their homes.

Confident Living is a continuing care at home program, focused on helping you remain active and independent as you age in your own home. We serve the greater Cincinnati area, for more information, contact us online or call (513) 719-3522.

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