Doctors tell us that regular forgetfulness is quite normal as we get older and nothing to worry about. Yet we do worry, even if we fully understand that misplacing a phone number or the gym pass is not the same as a serious cognitive issue such as dementia or early Alzheimer’s.
More than anything, it’s just maddening sometimes to realize that once again, we have forgotten or “lost” something. Our keys. Our wallet. Whether the iron is on or not. Or where we put the hammer.
And we just had it in our hands.
In “Pure Drivel,” Steve Martin puts it well:
“Bored? Here’s a way the over-fifty set can easily kill off a good half hour:
- Place your car keys in your right hand
- With your left hand, call a friend and confirm a lunch or dinner date.
- Hang up the phone.
- Now, look for your keys.”
Perfect. I can so relate. How can I possibly walk two feet into a room and lose something? How does a slip of paper with an important phone number just vaporize on my desk? How can I drive to the park with the dog and then realize her leash is at home?
My dog would love to know the answer to that one.
There are those who suggest making lists. Want to remember what to pick up at the grocery? Make a list. Where’s the list? On the kitchen counter.
At least I think it is…I know I put it somewhere.
Harvard Medical School says there’s lot of reasons why we can’t remember things, and not all of them are bad. For example, forgetting facts or events over time….this is considered to be a good thing because the brain is clearing itself of unused memories, making way for newer ones.
And granted, as we age, we have lots and lots of memories that could be taking up too much space in the file cabinet in our head.
Also, just not paying enough attention can keep you from remembering. Were you talking to your neighbor when you put the pen down? Then chances are you don’t know where it is when you need it. Or were you talking to yourself about the 13 things you need to get done that day?
No wonder the iron is still on.
Scientists also say it’s quite normal that we sometimes remember part of a memory accurately, but get a name wrong, or the location isn’t correct. It’s just another of the happy effects of aging. In this case, it’s our memories that are aging.
Then there’s the theory that the rate at which we acquire new information slows as we age, so we may think we’ve forgotten something, but it was never stored in memory in the first place. The good news is, scientists say that while it may take us wise old owls a bit longer to learn something, once we do, we can recall it just as quickly as a younger person.
I’m glad to know it’s okay to be forgetful, but it still can drive me crazy, and sometimes it can be dangerous for us boomers and beyond.
Did we lock the door? Is the fire pit out? Did we remember to fill up the gas tank? Is our laptop on the roof of the car?
As with many things, I sometimes think it’s more a matter of slowing down. Focusing on the moment. Doing one thing at a time. Getting enough sleep and eating healthy (darn). And cutting myself a break.
We’ve learned a lot. So we’re bound to forget some of it. If you have some tips for keeping your memory sharp, or how to not be so absent-minded, please share. I could use the suggestions.
Just ask my dog.
“Man needs forgetfulness as well as memory.”