Interaction helps our brains stay active, potentially staving off memory issues.
Forgetfulness is a common aspect of aging, however, our brains can be trained to work more efficiently. It’s easy for young people to brush off memory loss, but for a senior, it can feel like the start of a much larger problem. As we age, common and non-threatening causes hinder our ability to remember. For example, older people often experience a decrease in blood flow to the brain, which may cause gaps in memory. Another common cause is that the body produces lower levels of hormones and proteins that protect and repair brain cells. Neither of these is necessarily a cause for alarm. Everyone, no matter our age, faces some level of forgetfulness. If you’re caring for an older adult, you may be worried about changes in his or her memory. Remember, forgetfulness doesn’t necessarily indicate that something is wrong.
As the brain ages, it is common to forget things. Below are some top examples of forgetfulness. If your loved one’s memory issues reflect the behavior described, consider writing them down and talking with their doctor. Something more serious may be going on, but that’s not always the case. Research has shown that games can promote brain health, helping to keep the brain sharp at any age.
- Occasionally forgetting where they left objects that they use often
- Walking into a room and forgetting why they entered
- Cycling through several family members’ names before saying the correct one
- Having the “on the tip of my tongue” sensation
- Occasionally missing an appointment or meeting on their schedule
- Having a harder time retrieving information that they just learned
- Being unable to explain things quickly and with precise details
If you are truly concerned there are quite a few options for self-testing as a potential indicator of problems. The SAGE exam is considered very effective in picking up cognitive issues. Most medical doctors are familiar with this test and can assist with evaluation following its completion. Some examples of the questions provided on the SAGE exam are listed below:
- How many nickels are in 60 cents?
- You are buying $13.45 of groceries. How much change would you receive back from a $20 bill?
- Write down the names of 12 different animals.
- Draw a large face of a clock and place in the numbers. Position the hands for 10 minutes after 11 o'clock. On your clock, label "L" for the long hand and "S" for the shorthand.
Mind Crowd is an online test to see individuals compare to others in their demographic. The test is free and it looks at a number of factors including age, handedness, health, etc. as it analyzes the information. You don’t need to disclose your personal information to take the test. The goal of the organization is to get as much data as possible to help find a cure to Alzheimer’s. They are using the internet to gather a broad range of data. A simple Google search for online tests will bring up a number of resources.
Stimulating the Mind
Like any other muscle, you can exercise the brain to keep it in shape. A word scramble, trivia game or word search can be fun and keep us thinking. There are also excellent interactive resources like Lumosity that can keep the mind challenged. With Lumosity, not only can you keep the brain stimulated, you can also measure yourself against others in your age bracket. It’s recommended that you look for “new” things to try, rather than continue doing the same thing. For instance, instead of playing a card game alone join a group of players and try something more stimulating--including some fun banter! It’s better for you and way more fun than solitaire.
Social Interaction and Cognitive Function
Another way for your loved one to stay sharp and happy is to meet new people outside of their usual social circle. Making a new connection is great for seniors’ mental health because it provides an outlet for them to share stories and memories that relate to pivotal moments in their life. Reliving these moments and sharing stories with a fresh audience keeps seniors mentally active and helps to bring up positive memories that stimulate the mind.
Researchers give neurotransmitters the credit for the mental health benefits of socializing. While talking with AARP about this subject, Lou Cozolino, a psychologist and professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, believes that the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin into the brain creates this effect. When a person’s brain releases these three neurotransmitters, stress is reduced and it’s easier to feel a sense of well-being and contentment.
Check out our website for additional information and resources on Alzheimer's and dementia!