How Much Aging Do I Have To Put Up With?
Aging is inevitable. Everyday, bit by bit, we get older.
Fortunately, most of the changes go unnoticed until suddenly we realize we are not as young as we used to be. For some people this realization comes with the first grey hair or the onset of wrinkles. For others it is the decrease in hearing or the sudden dependence on reading glasses. Whatever the sign, most people accept and even joke about the physical changes associated with aging. This is not so, however, for cognitive aging. Changes in the way we think, remember and speak are taboo subjects, are not discussed and are certainly not joked about. But is this fair? Our brain has worked very hard for us. Shouldn’t it be allowed, like all other organs, to get tired, and old, and work a little less efficiently?
Yes it should be! Rather than denying cognitive aging, covering up our cognitive blunders and hiding to avoid embarrassment, we need to accept the notion of cognitive aging. We need to better understand what cognitive aging is and learn to communicate our concerns to family members, friends or our doctor.
Research has identified the following common cognitive changes associated with aging: processing speed slows down, encoding information in deep and meaningful ways takes more effort than it did before and divided attention tasks are more difficult. What does this mean? In a nutshell, aging can cause us to think a little more slowly, remember a little less, and get a little muddled when we do more than one thing at a time. Surprised? I hope not. After all, compared to when we were younger, most of us run a little more slowly, bend a little less gracefully, and lose our breath when going up stairs while talking on the phone.
Just as some people age physically at different rates, people age cognitively at different rates. While one person may have difficulty remembering names, another may forget what they had for lunch, another isn’t sure what the date is and another might get a little lost or confused on the way home from the grocery store. So how does one know if their cognitive aging is normal or not? Comparing notes and openly communicating with peers and family members is an excellent way to gauge just how serious your ‘slips’ may be. And in the event you feel the changes you are experiencing are not the norm, please speak to your doctor. There are many different, simple and complex, curable and treatable, causes for cognitive change.
Be ‘head’ strong. Play a proactive role in your aging. Stay mentally and physically active. Learn and practice strategies and techniques for cognitive enhancement. Talk about the changes, don’t hide them. Just as you might decide to get a hearing aid, new reading glasses, cover up grey hair or apply daily wrinkle cream, please accept the notion of cognitive aging and seek out solutions to help combat it.
By Heather Palmer PhD.