You’re late for an appointment. Actually, you had given yourself plenty of time, had laid out your clothes the previous evening, awoken, albeit complaining as the alarm clock sounded, and were ready to leave on time. But where the hell did I put the car keys? You begin the search. You look in all the logical places, then a search of the secondary areas. Now suddenly you’re late and a deep panic sets in. In desperation you spy the unmade bed and toss back the covers. And there magically sit the keys, purring on the sheets like a contented cat. You have no memory of handling the keys in the bed or placing them beneath the covers. They have simply just reappeared as if from another dimension.
There is an ill-defined discomfort that this is occurring more frequently as the years pass and your age steadily climbs toward that of your grandparents. Things seem to mystically disappear, only to miraculously reappear in another place or time. It is as if you are living with a nefarious Houdini! And the frustration, fear and anger that result are palpable. You feel as if your mind is not only taking a holiday, but is itself being misplaced. You are losing your ability to remember things which were once automatic. There is a very real fear that we are losing ourselves within the process of aging. If we cannot remember the simple things—like where are the car keys—then what’s next!
Ah, one of the lovely pitfalls of aging—memory displacement. It is like certain words, things or ideas are not in your mind’s rightful place. They have moved, just out of reach. At a time in life when you require your mind to be more cooperative, your mind has seemed to reach its adolescent rebellious stage refusing to recall your neighbor’s name or remember your anniversary date.
I mean…is this really necessary? And more…is this really normal?
Well seemingly, it actually is part of normal aging— annoying, inconvenient, worrying and upsetting—but normal. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports in their National Institute on Aging newsletter that as we age, all parts of the body undergoes change, including the brain. It seems our brains shrink about 2% due to our cells not efficiently retaining water as they did in our younger days. This especially affects the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Both areas are important to learning, memory, planning, and other complex mental activities. Further changes are noted in our brain’s neurons, neurotransmitters and blood vessels. This affects our neural highways and nerve communication. Simply put, after a frantic search you discover the keys under the covers and have no idea how they got there!
So is that it! Are we condemned to forget, misplace, overlook, be confused and in general feel at times like an idiot? Absolutely not—you just have to be more mentally diligent, aware, and concentrative. Your brain requires a little help, so do not be stingy in lending that organ the support it deserves.
Employ the C.A.R. method and Concentrate, Associate and Repeat when meeting a new neighbor, learning a different skill-set, or simply where you are placing your keys. Help your brain remember by verbalizing aloud to allow both your auditory and visual senses to get involved in the memory.
Exercise your brain! Our brains demonstrate plasticity and malleability. The brain has tremendous capacity to forge new neural pathways, become more efficient and share tasks in different parts of the brain. It is why stroke victims can regain movement in affected areas and memory can be reclaimed. Just like muscles, your brain can be stressed through proper cognitive fitness and mental acuity exercises to encourage and improve its mental capabilities. We have the bodies and brains of hunters; they want to be strong and efficient. So work on speed, reflexes and coordination and stress your brain to multitask.
Let us not regard misplaced keys as an indication of oncoming dementia—it’s certainly better than misplacing the entire car. As we age, stress your brain to grow and you will at least remember why you required the car keys in the first place.
Copyright © 2018 Richard Portugal All rights reserved.