Later Life Ramblings, June 3

Shirley Lowe writes about issues of importance to seniors

Shirley Lowe

Memory loss is normal in aging

Memory loss is a concern from mid to end of life. I have a tendency to believe that the hard drive inside the cranial cavity is on overload pretty early on. It was enlightening to find information about what is normal and what is not.

Occasional memory lapse is a normal part of aging. Age-related memory changes are not the same as dementia.  Aging means it takes longer to learn or recall information but most of the time the information will come to mind.

I was delighted to read that the brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age. It is “use it or lose it” as in muscle strength. To have trouble remembering what was just read or said, becoming easily distracted, not being able to retrieve information you have on the “tip of your tongue.” These memory lapses have little impact on our daily lives.

Normal is the ability to function independently for everyday activities. To be able to recall and describe what we forget, occasional difficulty finding the right word but have no trouble holding a conversation. Judgement and decision making ability has not changed.

Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, President of the World Federation of Neurology, said, “All dementias have a vascular component.” This condition can begin early in life. Older people often have decreased blood flow to the brain, which may impair memory and cause some changes in cognitive skills. Dementia is a persistent decline in two or more intellectual abilities, such as memory, language, judgement and abstract thinking. In some cases the side effects of taking many medications – the higher the risk for brain atrophy.

Dehydration, vitamin B12 deficiency, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse can also have an effect on memory loss. Where there

is concern it is recommended to check with your doctor as other reasons could be – stress, depression, hearing, vision loss, thyroid problems or vitamin deficiency.

Lifestyle, health habits and daily activities have a huge impact.  Consistent habits can compensate for memory loss:

• Keep keys in the same place,

• link medications to meals or regimens.

• Use memory aids, notebooks, smart phones and calendars.

• Get rid of clutter, clear out closets, cooking utensils, label drawers and boxes.

• Keep talking to keep language skills fresh.

• Maintain social interaction, get enough sleep, and walk.  Walking 6 to 9 miles each week can prevent brain shrinkage and memory loss.

• Reading is the foundation of wisdom and has taught and entertained mankind forever. It continues to be invaluable as we age.

• Gardening, volunteering, hobbies, doing crafts and crossword puzzles keep us sharp.

Award-winning actress Sophia Loren wrote “There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of others.  When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defeated age”.

Be yourself… no one is better qualified!

Shirley Lowe