Memory loss is a big fear in midlife. Many Boomers start to notice issues and talk about it with fear and trepidation. I was at a party filled with wonderful musicians playing in every room of this 3 story home. I was talking with a couple of guitarists, an amazing harmonica player and a piano player before they started to play old fashioned rock and roll. They all shook their heads and looked down in helpless sadness as they admitted they were over 50 and had memory loss. But, they didn’t have to be so afraid. Science can help Boomers understand and deal with the issue.
Harvard’s Healthbeat Archive reports that by age 60 more than 50% of us can expect memory issues. But to quell some fears, they say minor memory loss is usually not a sign of a serious neurological disorder. Scientist have found that this loss is due to normal change in the structure and function of our brains. Although no matter when memory issues begin, at a younger age or at an older age, age has the effect of making some problems worse. The good news is that unless they are extreme and persistent they aren’t considered problematic. They aren’t signs of Alzheimer’s or other serious memory damage.
The Archive article explains one normal memory problem, called transience, is actually valuable in that it clears our minds of unused thoughts to make way for newer more useful ones. But this clearing can be scary, if you are not aware of it. Forgetting facts over time––often, soon after you learn them, can be disarming. The way to stop the loss of information you want to hold onto, is to find ways to use it and make it valuable in your life. This will install it deeper into your brain’s memory system.
For example, I have a friend who loves BMW’s. I like the cars but have no idea how they work or any interest in learning about them. For my friend, BMW’s are a great passion. He went to Germany just to get his Beemer. Generally, I’d stay away from him because that was all he talked about. I thought he was boring. Then, I thought, what is boredom but my lack of participation in some event. As a challenge to myself, I decided to see if I could become interested. I decided to focus as he spoke about BMW’s and to listen. It took some doing, but as I listened and asked questions, he taught me about the car. Then, it became more interesting. But, by the next day I couldn’t have told you what he said if my life depended on it. It went in one ear and out the other. I had no use for the information, so it’s gone.
What You Can Do Now To Improve Your Memory
Look at your own experience of forgetting. Notice what kinds of things you forget. Are they important to you? If they are, I recommend writing them down and finding ways to relate to them more often. Memory is like a muscle. You have to use it, and like physical exercise, you can start working it Right now. Remember you have the power to choose your memories and, if you make them useful, they will stay with you as long as your healthy brain needs them.