Aging can be a difficult topic to read about, but we need to understand the changes that will happen to our bodies as we get older. In this post, resTORbio will share How Does Aging Affect Memory? and what you can do to keep your mind healthy in your golden years.
One of the most common concerns people have as they age is their memory. We are all guilty of forgetting things now and then, but when you’re in your senior years, there may come a time where you forget things more often or find yourself asking, What was I doing? This is especially true if dementia has been diagnosed.
Memory loss occurs due to many factors, including stress, sleep deprivation, medications, and too much alcohol consumption – any one of these factors, keep reading to see more information.
Changes in the Aging Brain
As we age, there are changes in every part of our bodies, including the brain.
Some brain parts shrink, particularly those that are important for learning and complex mental activities.
Communication between neurons (nerve cells) in certain brain regions may not be as efficient.
The brain’s blood flow may be reduced.
Inflammation is when the body reacts to injury or illness. It can increase.
Even healthy older adults can be affected by these brain changes. Some older adults might not perform as well on learning or memory tests.
They can still learn new tasks if they are given enough time. As we age, it is normal to need that extra time. The brain can adapt and change, so people can handle new tasks and challenges as they age.
If you are concerned about memory and thinking changes, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine if your memory and thinking changes are normal or if it is something else.
You can take steps to improve your physical health. These actions may also help your cognitive health. Find out more about cognitive health and how you can help your brain age well.
Memory and Aging
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, memory is the ability or process of reusing or recalling what was learned and retained. Our ability to recall and remember our past ties us together with our families, friends, and the community.
As we age, subtle changes occur in our memory as part of the aging process. These changes can sometimes occur earlier than expected or quicker than expected.
These changes are often not noticed but can sometimes be very disturbing for others and ourselves. Many things can affect memory and make age-related changes more difficult. It is age-related memory loss.
Sometimes, memory changes can be caused by side effects of medications or a developing or existing health problem. It is possible to improve your memory by identifying the problem and treating it.
But, if memory loss makes it difficult to perform daily tasks or our familiar roles in life, it can be a serious health problem that requires further investigation by healthcare professionals.
How Does Aging Affect Memory?
What Memory Problems Are an Expected Part of Normal Aging?
It is possible to forget things (the missing keys) or have difficulty recalling dates and names. This is part of normal aging. Multiple memory processes are involved, including recalling and learning new information.
One of these processes could be disrupted and cause forgetting. As shown below, many types of memory can be affected by normal aging.
Memory functions that are preserved
- Remote memory (capability to recall events years ago)
- Procedural memory (performing tasks).
- Semantic recall (general information)
- Memory functions are declining
Learn new information
- Recalling new information takes longer (it takes longer to learn and to remember it).
What Other Cognitive Changes Occur With Normal Aging?
Normal aging has a modest effect on language. Language refers to the words, their pronunciation, as well as the combinations they are used together to make them understandable.
Language comprehension (understanding of the rules of language) is often preserved. Vocabulary (semantic memory) and syntax (how words are put together) are also typically preserved.
Problems with remembering names or finding words in conversations (tip on the tongue) are common. Verbal fluency (which takes longer to get it out) is also possible.
Although verbal intelligence (vocabulary) remains the same with age, the speed at which information is processed slows down (such as problem-solving skills).
While executive functions such as planning and abstract thinking are still essential for daily tasks, they can be slowed down when new tasks are completed or multi-tasking.
Aging can cause a slowing down of cognitive processing speed and slower reaction time (hitting the buzzer)
What Memory Problems Are Not Considered a Part of Normal Aging?
Normal aging is not defined as memory problems that interfere with daily activities and everyday life. It is normal to forget where your glasses are, but it is not normal for normal aging to forget what they are used for.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or dementia, can cause memory loss and mental problems that are not typical of aging. Researchers believe mild cognitive impairment may be a stage in the progression to dementia.
It is the stage that occurs between normal aging and early-stage dementia. Mild cognitive impairment does not necessarily mean that all people will develop dementia. Below are some examples of memory abnormalities that can be seen in MCI or dementia.
Memory problems in people with mild cognitive impairment
- Recalls past events and repeats the same questions and stories. Sometimes forgets the names and addresses of family and friends.
- Trouble finding the right words. Has trouble understanding written and verbal information.
- Loses focus. Gets easily distracted. You need to remind yourself to do certain things, or you will forget.
- Although they may struggle with complex tasks, they can still complete them, such as paying bills, taking medication, cooking, cleaning the house, or driving.
- Can still function independently despite having many memory impairments.
- People with dementia may have memory problems.
Many of the same symptoms as MCI plus dementia progresses.
- Incapable of completing complex daily tasks, such as paying bills, shopping, and taking medication.
- Memory loss can cause memory loss awareness and insight to be lost.
- Poor judgment
- Decreases in rational thinking and problem-solving ability.
- Cognitive impairments in memory, cognition, and language can lead to impossible self-care tasks without another person’s assistance.
Brain Exercises to Combat Memory Loss
Mental exercise, just like physical exercise, can strengthen your body and reduce your chance of developing dementia. Find brain exercises you enjoy.
Your brain will benefit more if it is enjoyable. Some activities can be made more enjoyable by appealing to your senses. You could play music, light a candle, or reward yourself after the activity is over.
These are some brain exercises, from light to moderate lifting.
You can play games that require strategy (e.g., bridge or chess) and word games such as Scrabble. Crosswords and other word puzzles are also available.
It will help if you read newspapers, magazines, or books that challenge your thinking.
Learn new things every day: recipes, driving routes, and games. Also, learn a foreign language. Learn a new subject that interests and engages you.
Your brain will be more engaged if you are interested in learning. The greater your chances of continuing to learn, the greater the benefits.
You can improve your ability to do the activities you already enjoy. Fluency in a foreign language is something you can work on. If you are a good golfer, try to lower your handicap.
Design and plan a project such as a garden, quilt, or koi-pond.
Your brain can be trained.
- Mnemonic strategies can be used to improve memory and learning. Mnemonics are techniques and tricks that help you remember difficult information.
- An example of this is the mnemonic “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain“. It helps you remember the first letters of each rainbow color, according to their wavelengths: red and orange, yellow, green and blue, indigo and violet.
- Maintain control over your memory and feel confident.
- Do not assume that memory problems are a sign of dementia. Memory aids can be used to increase and sustain confidence.
It’s hard to tell what is normal for memory changes and what isn’t. We know that the brain needs exercise, so practicing now will help build a strong foundation when you’re old. Memory games are one way to work on your mental skills while having fun at the same time! If you want more information about how our experts can help make sure you have good memories in the future, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comment.