Is My Memory Getting Worse Because I am Getting Older?

This question of age and its relation to an apparent decline in memory performance is one that I get asked a lot.

Well that is not strictly true because I don’t get asked that very often but I do get TOLD that is the reason why people’s memory is getting poorer.

It is a commonly held belief that your memory will decline BECAUSE you are getting older and because of the inevitability of advancing years it is assumed that a poorer memory goes with the territory.

However I have never subscribed to that idea and over the last years I have come to the conclusion that age is merely coincidental to an apparent decline in memory.

The reason I say that is because I believe there are 10 factors that contribute to our memory appearing to get worse with age but none of them are age related.

All of them are straightforward and logical reasons and the great thing is that we can do something about all of them (assuming of course we are healthy and not suffering from any illness that might affect memory or are taking medication that has poor recall as a side effect).

I won’t go into them here but I read an article in the Times Body and Soul supplement about memory and age that pretty much confirms my suspicions.

Vivienne Parry wrote a short piece about the misconception that older people have less ability to learn than younger people.

In fact she states that “people of any age are capable of learning new things and older people can learn successfully at very advanced levels”.

She cites a number of factors that do affect mental ability with age, the most significant one being any illness or condition that affects the flow of blood to the brain.

The brain uses oxygen which is transferred to the brain via the blood.

This is why being aerobically fit is good for keeping your mind in top shape.

Interestingly enough Parry talks about the lack of confidence being a major factor that affects older people’s inclination to learn.

A feeling of slowing down mentally can have people give up and not try when often what they think is poor mental performance could be things like slow reaction time because of failing eyesight.

Parry does make one statement that I do disagree with and that is she makes a bold statement about having a “decline in short term memory with age”.

If you read my post on short term memory loss, I am not convinced that is as clear cut as she makes out.

Her article goes on to recommend 5 things you can do to stay mentally sharp and they pretty much fall in line with my recommendations, so rather than paraphrase her, I will give you my advice:
  1.  Keep physically active and take some form of moderate exercise to oxygenate your blood (medical advice always recommended before starting any exercise regime of course)
  2. Eat a healthy balanced diet (use your common sense to choose the foods but my rule of thumb is that the fresher and greener it is, the better it will be for me).
  3. Stay appropriately hydrated
  4. Challenge yourself to learn something new – a foreign language, a musical instrument, learn to dance salsa
  5. Stay mentally active by reading, doing puzzles, playing chess etc
  6. Stay socially active and surround yourself with stimulating people
  7. Start thinking positively about your memory
  8. Set learning goals to focus your attention
  9. Learn a few memory techniques to help with those day to day things like lists, phone numbers and peoples names