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LostInParadise's avatar

As we age, is it common to have temporary memory lapses?

Asked by LostInParadise (29756points) August 25th, 2013

I have just turned 65. Lately I have been finding it fairly common to not be immediately come up with a name or word that I am thinking of, but usually if I wait a few minutes I will able to think of it. Sometimes I will look up the word on the Internet, but I am stubborn about not relying on the Internet. In the few cases where the word does not come to me in a few minutes, the word will most often suddenly pop into my head within a few hours.

The names or words are not ones that I commonly use or think about, but it seems to me that I have not had this problem as frequently before. For example, I was trying to remember the names of the stars of the movie Psycho. Another time I had trouble coming up with Mel Gibson’s name. Just now it took me a few minutes to think of the word triage. Should I be worried that it is going to get worse?

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19 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Unfortunately, yes.

Exercise and practice do seem to help, as they do in other ways.

However, the Internet is a marvelous crutch. And there’s nothing wrong with using a crutch when you’re lame; much better to have one when you need it than not. Some days, especially when I’m writing, I keep Thesaurus.com open all day.

janbb's avatar

I have that too but it’s sometimes interesting to see how the memory comes back. I was viewing the Diaghiliev Ballet Russe exhibit and remembered a movie scene about the first performance of “The Rites of Spring.” I couldn’t remember anything about the movie but as my mind reached for it more bits came back and I finally remembered it was the movie about Coco Chanel and Stravinsky with Audrey Tautoo that come out a few years ago.

Neodarwinian's avatar

” As we age, is it common to have temporary memory lapses? ”

Quite. Normal and not sounding too troubling yet, so you, as I did, will have to make some adjustments.

Irritates me when I am reading and have to go look up a word I know the meaning of but have misplaced that meaning temporarily.

skfinkel's avatar

Seriously? This is news to you?
Here’s what I have heard: If you can’t remember where you put your keys: normal. If you can’t remember what your keys are for: trouble.

marinelife's avatar

It is very common. It does not sound worrisome.

flip86's avatar

I’m 29 and this happens to me. I call it a brain fart.

Jeruba's avatar

I really started noticing it as a marked change when I was in my early forties. In particular, I remember blanking on Sir Laurence Olivier’s name and taking half a day to think of it. Instead all I could think of was Vivien Leigh. Apparently the associative functions weren’t affected.

I kind of asked around then, and the consensus I got back from those who were a bit ahead of me on the timeline was, in effect, “Yes, that’s about when we start falling apart completely, and it’s all downhill from there.” Thanks, guys.

Sunny2's avatar

Oh gosh, yes. It’s normal and it gets worse. At first, it make you feel panicky. Relax and it gets easier to wait for the word or the name to come to you. People our age understand… I remember complimenting a friend on her husband’s ability to walk into a meeting room and call so many people by name. She said, “Hmm, yes. They aren’t always the right name.”
@skfinkel The way I heard it, if you find your keys in the refrigerator, worry.

Jeruba's avatar

@Sunny2, the freezer is one of the first places I look for something that has vanished. Glasses, for instance.

Sunny2's avatar

You must have cool glasses.

janbb's avatar

@Sunny2 My mother used to put her keys in the fridge at work if she had done grocery shopping at lunchtime so she wouldn’t forget the shopping! She was bonkers but pretty sharp in many ways.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My mom is 60 & has started wearing keys on a sports lanyard. It’s normal. Meds & stress make it worse.

ETpro's avatar

I’ve always had a hard time remembering actors real names, because I am about as star-struck as the average naked mole rat is. William Shatner is a particular nemesis, and that’s weird, because I actually do like him. I can think of T. J. Hooker. I can instantly remember James T. Kirk and know that T stands for Tiberius. I can think of Spock and that Leonard Nimoy played him, Mr Chekov played by Walter Koenig and Scotty by James Doohan and on and on. I know Shatner played Denny Crane alongside James Spader’s Alan Shore in Boston Legal. I loved that series. And then after thinking about all that, finally Shatner’s name pops up from somewhere in the obscure reaches of my mind.

No offense, Shatner. For a guy who’s totally unimpressed by star power, I really do like you. I just can’t remember your name. I’m sure you’ll understand, because you probably don’t know my name either.

gailcalled's avatar

Often, en route from room A to room B, I have to come to a full stop and concentrate, having forgotten the reason for the journey. Usually it will come to me.

Several weeks ago, I misplaced a 24” metal grabber I use in order not to bend down too much. I went through every inch of the house, car and garage, or so I thought. It eventually turned up in my small broom closet, in a corner, behind an electric broom. How and why did it end up there? Don’t ask me.

Interestingly, I seem to be doing better with vocabulary and spelling and linguistic issues. Maybe because I do a lot of on-the-fly writing here.

ETpro's avatar

@gailcalled It’s an evil plot. The Universe loves playing with the heads of us senior citizens. Now atoms are in a constant state of motion, so it’s perfectly possible to put a 24” metal grabber down in its normal place, and by some infinitely improbable happenstance, all its atoms decide simultaneously to move to the back corner of the broom closet, in the corner, behind the electric broom. Normally, you could write down a 1 and start writing zeros on the right side of it, and if you had started 13.8 billion years ago when the Universe was born and written zeros as fast as you can write for all that time 1/(that number) would still be far more probable than all the atoms in your 24” metal grabber just happening to shift in synchronicity. But when the Universe decides to start fucking with your head, infinite improbability becomes quite ordinary. The Universe is Gaslighting you.

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dgee's avatar

What you experience is normal, but differs in age with different people. I am just short of 87 and it didn’t hit me until I was 84 – 85. Some tests that probably don’t have a study to back them up: Cant’ come up with a noun [normal], Can’t come with a verb [ troubling ], Knowing where the radio knob is in a car but not knowing how to use them [ troubling ].
John Hopkins Med center has a lot of literature on the subject. Not free, but available.

cheebdragon's avatar

Hey, there are days when my 7 year old can’t remember ½ the shit I tell him…...I think its just something we all do.

I’m 26 and I can’t remember if I locked my car once I get about 30 ft away from it, Its always locked, but i still have to check.

rojo's avatar

I find that the older I get, the more stuff I neglect to remember. I don’t know if it is that my memory is faulty or that I have finally come to realize that most of the crap that I encounter is not really worth remembering.

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