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Senior moments - annoying or alarming?

We’ve all had them – senior moments. You lose track of your thought, stopping in mid-sentence. You begin one task and become distracted by something else. You walk into a room and stop, wondering why you came in. You’ve lost the car keys again. You put your coffee cup down somewhere and can’t find it. Where are your glasses this time? You draw a blank on an acquaintance’s name. 'Senior moments' happen to most of us, especially over age 50.

Senior moments are brief lapses in your memory where you are temporarily baffled or confused. While alarming, senior moments are a normal part of the aging process. Our brains slow down as we age and it takes us longer to process information and remember things. But these episodes can be disconcerting and many of us fear we may be experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Given today’s fast paced world and the amount of information we must digest, it is no wonder we have these lapses in memory. In this age of technology, information is constantly thrown at us. “Information overload” can cause senior moments because we try to process and retain so much information that it overwhelms our brain and lapses can occur.

Today’s contemporary lifestyle of multitasking further fuels senior moments. When we multitask, we try to do many things at once so our attention is divided between them and we do not focus on any one thing. Stress, depression and cardiovascular disease also trigger senior moments.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association (AA), our brains undergo normal age-related memory loss as we age. This happens for many reasons, including a decline in the size of our brain, making it harder to pay attention and process information. But 'people with normal age-related memory loss, are usually able to compensate for these changes by using lists and other memory aids.' So, senior moments normally 'do not impair daily functioning.'

But, AA cautions 'when senior moments make it hard to manage daily affairs, they may be early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.' When you are concerned about the increasing number of senior moments you have, or their severity, and if they 'go beyond the realm of minor annoyances and occasional slips' AA recommends seeing a doctor to have your symptoms evaluated. While there could be many causes for your symptoms, the only way to find out is to have a 'thorough diagnostic workup.'

There is no getting around the fact that the ability to remember can slip with age,” reports Health.Harvard.edu. Many of these changes are normal, not a sign of dementia. But it does advise keeping the rest of your body healthy. 'Many medical conditions—from heart disease to depression—can affect your memory. Staying physically and mentally active turns out to be among the best prescriptions for maintaining a healthy brain and a resilient memory.'

Thus, while senior moments can be scary and strike fears about the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, most of the time they are just a result of the brain's normal aging process. If senior moments do not impede your capability of managing day-to-day activities, then they are most likely just one of the frustrations of getting older.