By: Jan Dougherty
Director of Family and Community Services
Banner Alzheimer's Institute
With 10,000 adults turning 65 each day, boomers are the most active generation we have seen in our lifetime. However, as our population ages, many can't help but worry if a "senior moment" might actually be something worse.
As Alzheimer's is the only top 10 cause of death without treatment or cure, healthy, aging adults are frightened about the prospect of developing this disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million by 2025 -- a 40 percent increase. Many boomers have seen firsthand the toll Alzheimer's takes on families as caregivers.
Forgetful moments like "Where did I put my car keys?" or "What did I come into this room
for?" can trigger cause for concern. But you are not alone and this doesn't mean that you have the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease. Changes in memory are common in middle-aged and older adults. In fact, the most common complaints from these two groups of people include remembering names and words.
Additionally, most middle and older adults are aware that they can no longer multitask as they did in their younger years. Aging brains are less efficient than in years past; and therefore most memory-related complaints are for recent or short-term memory vs. older memories.
Learning new information requires more time as we age and the recollection of old information may be slowed. While these changes may cause some frustration in daily life, these normal changes should not interfere with daily living. In fact, most age-associated memory changes can improve when individuals learn new techniques to sharpen memory skills.
Here are some strategies to sharpen your memory:
1. ACTIVELY OBSERVE and think about what you want to remember. Use all of your senses. Being active in learning information heightens your abilities to look at details more closely, smell, touch and listen more carefully. In other words, pay attention to what or who you want to remember.
2. ASSOCIATE or link what you want to remember with what you already know. For example, if you meet a new person named Barbara, think about someone you knew in the past named Barbara. You may learn that Barbara is from Boston or owns a poodle or loves to cook. Associate the information you learn about Barbara to other learned memories as this will link the new information and become more meaningful.
3. VISUALIZE a picture in your mind of what you want to remember. Using the example of meeting Barbara, build upon that by visualizing Barbara from Boston cooking a lobster. Sometimes using whacky or fantastical images create the most robust memories, but for most people, it will require some practice as we tend to be very logical and serious as adults.
4. ACTIVELY THINK and expand on the details that you want to remember. The more details you can gain by listening and asking questions will add more meaning and will likely be remembered.
5. PRACTICE these or other strategies on a daily basis and you will find that your memory for names and words will improve.
If you or a loved one is worried about Alzheimer's or if you want to help move Alzheimer's research forward, one of the best things you can do is join the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry. The Registry serves to connect healthy adults with researchers who are conducting vital prevention studies to accelerate the search for a cure to this devastating disease. The more people who join, the closer scientists will come to stopping Alzheimer's within our lifetime. Sign up now at www.endalznow.org.