Memory loss is a chief aging complaint. Memory is a broad category covering the ability to retain and retrieve information. Types of memory that decline with aging are working memory, episodic memory (especially for more recent events), and prospective memory. Types of memory that tend to be more stable are procedural memory and semantic long-term memory (may decline after the seventh decade).
Working memory is the ability to temporarily hold information in mind and processing it mentally. Working memory is task related and involved in encoding, storing, and retrieving data for problem-solving, decision – making, and language processing. Declines in working memory mean that older adults may take longer or have more difficulty solving complex problems or weighing complicated decisions.
Episodic memory refers to one’s memory for personally experienced events that have happened at a particular place or time. Declines in episodic memory may cause older adults to be more forgetful, especially for recent events.
Prospective memory is the ability to remember future events and planning. A decline in prospective memory may require reminders for planned activities as needed. Calendar is a useful tool.
Semantic long-term memory is a long-term memory that involves the recollection of ideas, concepts and facts commonly regarded as general knowledge, which acquired over time. Older adults are generally good at retaining information and memories that they’ve previously acquired, but may take longer to retrieve them.
Procedural memory is also known as skill learning and remembering how to do certain activities. It usually requires time and practice to build up. The ability to perform well-learned procedures (e.g. typing) remains stable, but older adults often need more time and practice to learn a new procedure and create the procedural memory.
To aging concern, what’s normal memory decline and what’s not? Able (or unable) to manage daily life tasks should be an important indication. For older adults, maintain a daily routine at a comfortable slower pace is normal. Take more time as needed to encode into and retrieve from memories, not to rush the processing time, is a good rule to follow.
Attention is the ability to concentrate and focus on something specific, so that the related information can be processed.
Selective attention is the ability to focus on something specific despite the presence of other distracting and “irrelevant” information or stimuli, such as spotting the relevant information on a cluttered website, and following a conversation despite background noise. Selective attention gets worse with aging. As people get older, they are more easily distracted by noise, visual clutter, or a busy situation. It requires more effort for them to pay attention, especially when other things are going on.
Divided attention, also known as “multi-tasking,” is the ability to manage multiple tasks or streams of information at the same time. Examples: cooking while listening to news, walking while talking on the phone. People will also get worse at multi-tasking or switching between tasks, as getting older.
Language skills cover a variety of abilities related to understanding and producing in both verbal and written language. Vocabulary and the comprehension of written language tend to remain stable with aging. Older adults normally retain learned vocabulary and comprehension ability for written language.
Speech comprehension may decline with age, however, especially if the older person has any hearing difficulties or if the speech is rapid or distorted (because such speech requires more mental processing). Language production also decline with age; as retrieving words often takes longer, more time is needed to find a word and it becomes more common to pause in the middle of a sentence. Spelling familiar words may become more difficult. The ability to name a common object tends to decline after age 70. They may struggle with understanding rapid speech or distorted speech (such as that broadcast by a loudspeaker or synthetic voice).
This refers to the mental skills that are needed for activities related to planning, organizing, problem-solving, abstract thinking, mental flexibility, and appropriate behavior. Executive function involves -
Solve new problems
Organize information and plan activities
Reasoning (especially when it comes to reasoning with unfamiliar material)
Adapt to new situations
Behave socially appropriate
Make complex decisions
Executive function generally declines with age, especially after age 70. Normal older adults generally can perform the executive functioning tasks but may not as easily as at a younger age. Older adults may struggle or take more time for demanding executive functioning tasks, more so when overwhelmed.
Processing speed is how quickly one can manage a mental task. Processing speed decreases with age, therefore older adults need more time to take in information and to formulate an appropriate response, compared to their younger selves. Some older adults may struggle with complex tasks requiring fast information processing, which can be frustrating. Driving safety, in particular, may be affected by slower processing, because driving requires the brain to be highly vigilant and coordinate reactions quickly.
Crystallized versus fluid intelligence in aging
Crystallized intelligence might refer to as “wisdom”, for everything one has learned over time: skills, abilities, knowledge. This increases as people get older, because crystallized intelligence is a function of experience, practice, and familiarity. Crystallized intelligence gets better or stays stable as people get older. This experience and wisdom does enable older adults to compensate for some of the decline in processing speed and other ability.
Fluid intelligence refers to abilities related to processing power, taking in new information, problem-solving with new or less familiar information, and reacting quickly. Fluid intelligence is at its peak at younger adulthood and then declines over time. Older people tend to rely less on fluid intelligence and deliberative capacity and more on intuition, rules of thumb and shortcuts - things learned through experience and which can actually lead to equally effective decision making in areas they are familiar with.
As emotions are central to daily functioning, it is important to understand how aging affects perception, memory, experience, as well as regulation of emotions. Research studied how the aging brain dealing with negative emotions, such as
How quickly one moves out of a negative emotional state
How physically or emotionally reacting to interpersonal stressors
Mental strategies for minimizing negative stimuli
Findings suggest that older adults experience several changes that generally make them more positive and optimistic. These include, but not limit to -
Practically speaking, people tend to get happier and recover from negative emotions more quickly as they age. Normal older adults develop a positivity bias and tend to engage in situations that are emotionally positive, but avoid problems that generate negative emotions or deny certain issues that they find unpleasant.
Misplaced trust can have dire consequences, especially when it comes to financial fraud. Older adults seem to be particularly vulnerable to interpersonal solicitations, and their reduced sensitivity to cues related to trust may partially underlie this vulnerability.
Cognitive aging means that as people getting older, the mental functions become less flexible with memories getting worse. Aging brain also becomes more easily distracted by busy environments, and it takes more effort to work through complex problems, choices, and decisions.
Aging tends to make people more positive, optimistic, trusting, emotionally resilient, and focused on good things. This often helps people feel happier as they get older. But these changes may also make older adults more susceptible to deception and financial exploitation.
Aging is inevitable, but quality of life is not age limiting. Cognitive health requires self-care actions for maintenance. To learn about physical changes of aging body, go to The Milestone of Age 65. Don’t blame your age. Healthy mindset and life style has a direct impact on your mind and body.
Taking actions today to enhance cognitive health:
Take self-care actions to optimize and maintain your brain function
Believe in yourself – when you believe you can improve and you translate that belief into practice, you have a better chance of keeping your mind sharp.
Learn a new skill and engage in continued learning - Trying new activities may be a great way to challenge your brain to make new brain connections.
it’s essential to be emotionally literate. Train your sense to feel emotions in your body and to be able to recognize it. Notice the buildup before the trigger and recognize recurring patterns to prevent low EQ moments become habits.
Focus on attention toward a specific goal and choose the course of action, avoid making decisions emotionally, especially financial (donations, investments, purchases) decisions.
Develop emotional regulation through cognitive reconstruction and be able to effectively manage emotions as well as express them in an acceptable manner in social interactions.
Learning and understanding your aging brain will benefit your self-care. Feel free to contact QualityLifeForum@outlook.com for personal support. An individualized coaching program can help you achieving your personal health goals.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional for personal conditions.
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