Slower Recall is Normal as We Age
If you have been a jogger, hiker or tennis player most of your life, you probably accept the fact that your ability to perform these activities has slowed down a bit as you aged. (Let's be honest, it may have slowed down a lot.) At the same time, if you are a little less quick to remember a name or some other information, your slower thinking ability is as normal as your slower physical ability.
Here's how you can tell the difference: If it just takes you a few extra minutes to recall the information or, when prompted, you can instantly confirm that the suggested information is correct, this means you still have the memory and it has not been completely lost. It is normal to have trouble recalling all our memories as we age.
On the other hand, if you cannot remember something at all and, even when prompted by someone else, the name or event does not seem familiar to you, then you really are losing portions of your memory. That is the beginning of dementia.
Distractions Can Make it Harder for Anyone to Remember Things
In addition to recalling information more slowly, we may also have a lot on our minds, especially if we lead busy lives ... which is true for most of us Baby Boomers. Are you still working, involved in family activities, belong to clubs, caring for relatives, planning trips, paying bills, and feeling overwhelmed at times by all the demands on your time? As we age and tire out more easily, all these obligations may make it even more difficult to recall details or retrieve new information ... such as where we set down our keys or the doctor's appointment we made.
If you are busy and preoccupied, with a number of thoughts running through your head, it is not unusual to have difficulty recalling certain details and automatic actions, no matter what your age. That is normal.
On the other hand, if you are relaxed and have plenty of time and opportunity to focus on what is going on, and you still cannot recall important events or information, then that could be a sign of dementia.
Flipping the Dementia Statistics
When I reported a few weeks ago on the University of California - Irvine study that showed the prevalence of Alzheimers and dementia in our population, I realize the article focused primarily on the bad news ... that a small number of us will develop dementia and the percentage doubles every five years.
In other words, I pointed out that by age 90 approximately 10% of the people who are still alive will have dementia. That means that 90% of people will NOT have dementia, even by the age of 90. At age 85, only 5% of us will have dementia ... leaving 95% of us with normally functioning memories ... despite the fact that our thinking may be a bit slower.
According to an article in the "2014 Answers Guide" published by the Orange County Council on Aging, people who are aware enough to ask whether or not their memory loss is normal, do not usually have a serious problem ... which is certainly a relief to know.
Relax. Dementia is something that most of us will not have to worry about! Now ... where did I put my keys?
"What is 'Normal' Memory Loss," 2014 Answers Guide, Orange County Council on Aging, page 40.
University of California-Irvine, 90+ Study on residents of Laguna Woods Village
If you are interested in other medical issues that will affect us as we age, check out the Medical Concerns tab at the top of this article. You will also find tabs with suggestions on where to live after retirement, financial planning, family issues and more.
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