Now, who doesn’t know the classic joke about the Aunty ji, who is frantically searching for her spectacles, when all the time, they are with her-pushed up on her head!
This very image shows the close association between the two inevitable aspects of life; ‘Aging and Memory loss’. The highly successful businessman, known for his sharp intellect forgets where he has parked his car! And the very organized lady, who could recall the birthdays of all her friends, forgets where she last kept her spectacles.
Is this how life will end? We all know about ageing gracefully, but as age slowly creeps in, the one thing it takes from us, is our ability to remember; and this happens in such small, imperceptible ways, that we are not even aware of it.
The process of aging effects all muscles, and the brain, too, is like a muscle. Just as it is with muscle strength, you have to use your brain or lose it. Memory lapses can be frustrating, but the good news is that, most of the time they aren’t a cause for concern.
Hence, let us first understand what nature will do to our brains, as we age for us to know how to slow down the inevitable change.
As we grow older…
We must realise that as we grow older, certain physiological changes will cause glitches in our brain functions, such as memory loss, which we have always taken for granted. It takes longer to learn and recall information. Reaction time to a stimulus is slower, and we are not as quick as we used to be.
Certain hormones and proteins, namely dopamine and serotonin, that protect and repair our brain cells and stimulate neural growth, also decline with age.
Older people tend to be slower in processing sensory data. Forgetting recently learned information, important dates and events, and relying on family members for things they handled themselves, become common.
We normally compensate for these changes by slowing down, making lists, avoiding challenging circumstances, rehearsing key elements and trying other memory aids.
But it doesn’t always have to be like this! I came across this quote, “My brain is like the Bermuda Triangle…. Information goes in, and then it is never found again!”, which is meant to be funny, but when it comes at a personal level; I would never want to forget where I have kept my chocolates, right until I die!
And, there is proof; Galileo did his best writing, at 72, Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals and studied lead poisoning at 79. Bach, Beethoven, Monteverdi, Verdi and Stravinsky produced some of their greatest works in their ripe age. Wait! There’s more, we have the example of Hon’ble Prime minister Narendra Modi, and Amitabh Bachchan, who continue to astound us, as they age.
Mantra for beating forgetfulness at a ripe age
We don’t get “dumber” as we age—but numerous replicated studies reveal we do take longer to be as smart as we always were. Fortunately, there is one thing we can always be smart about, and that is following the sensible mantra of physical fitness, mental activity, healthy diet, stress reduction, and good sleep.
Staying intellectually and socially engaged, are probably the most important things we can do to help and maintain our cognitive abilities, for a very long period of time.
We now have apps, like NeuroNation, which will send progressively difficult games and puzzles to your mobile, to keep the brain cells active, and also give you periodical evaluations.
The earlier we realise that the best investment in life is in our own selves, not only physical, but also mental, the better results we get.
And, though written on my T- shirt, it is not fashionable to say that, “At my age, I’ve seen it all, done it all, heard it all; I just can’t remember it al!”
Contributor: Nafisa Shabbir Master
About our Writing Program Student
Nafisa is a Behavioural Psychologist, Neuro Linguistic Master Trainer, and Life Skills Coach. Apart from over 20 years of experience in Corporate Coaching, she also takes time to travel and go trekking. An avid traveller and trekker, Nafisa has trekked to the China, Myanmar and Bangladesh borders. She loves reading, coking, singing and making friends. She’s happily married and a proud grand mother of four beautiful children.