September is Healthy Aging Month. Recent research has demonstrated that activities that engage the mind of older adults can improve memory function -- one aspect of healthy aging.
"The research that has been done to understand why older people do have some increase in 'memory lapses' suggests that while minor difficulties do occur with aging, major memory changes are frequently related to such underlying causes as medications, disease, depression or malnutrition," said Judith Warren, gerontology specialist at the Texas Cooperative Extension. "Many of these conditions are treatable and reversible, but some are permanent."
The "tip-of-the-tongue" memory loss is the most common memory impairment that older people experience. Warren said this is a "speed of recall" issue and is rarely anything more than an inconvenience.
Research has shown that a person's confidence affects performance.
"As a person ages, he or she is likely to have negative beliefs about memory performance," Warren said. "People joke when they forget something that they have 'old-timer's' disease. Anxiety or other strong emotions may keep a person from paying attention or taking in information. Because many older people do not expect to have good memories, they have a lower confidence level, may be anxious about remembering and generally may not seek to understand how or when their memory is working well versus when it is not working well."
Do you remember names easily? Research indicates that people are born with different memory capacities that remain with us throughout life, such as memory for details, for names or math.
There also is some difference in memory performance between age groups. Older people can access a broader range of information where younger people can recall facts more quickly.
"Some researchers think that older people may remember more important information and use a 'forget cue' to dispense with trivia," Warren said.
"The brain is as responsive as any muscle to challenge: Use it or lose it. Learning continues throughout life. Older adults can engage in activities that can help them pinpoint some sources that contribute to their own memory problems -- like habits, thinking patterns and beliefs."
For more information about healthy aging visit the Web site www.healthyaging.net. The purpose of this site is, "to broaden awareness of the positive aspects of aging and to provide information and inspiration for adults, age 50-plus, to improve their physical, mental, social and financial fitness."
Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Develop-ment programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.
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