Monday, April 7, 2014

Aging Not Quite Gracefully

 first in a series

Part 1: A Mental Malady of Aging

Aging is a process, a progression from one stage to the next. In our formative years the process usually means improvement. We acquire basic skills and expand mental and physical abilities, learning to throw a ball or swim or dance, then expanding skills, throwing the ball faster or further, swimming a longer distance, attempting more intricate dance moves.

Somewhere along the way, at first imperceptibly, the rate of improvement slows and the learning curve lengthens. It takes longer to master new dance routines or computer programs or words to a song.

As the decades roll by we succumb, slowly but surely, to a mental malady of aging called CRS - can’t remember shit, sometimes labeled CRAFT – can’t remember a f***** thing.

I have CRS.

I have not forgotten forever information stored in brain cells for days, months, years, and decades.

Most of the time I eventually remember whatever information I am trying to recall. I just do not remember immediately.

I would be the worst Jeopardy contestant ever. Watching the show from the comfort of my couch, I know the answer to lots of questions. But on stage I could not transfer the information from my brain’s file cabinet to the front of my brain, then notify my hand and press the button before my opponents. I would be a miserable failure earning $000.

Sometimes I run into a person I know I know, but my mind goes blank. Do I know the person from work? The gym? A neighbor? Former student? Repairman?...the name escapes me.

I was never great at remembering names. But I have gotten worse.

So I pass a few words of greeting with the individual, move on, and then – Bingo! A few minutes later remember the name. But it is too late…

My Dad had a habit, when addressing one of the women in his family, of saying, “Elyss Harriet Janice Meryl…” Naming his wife, sister, daughters, and maybe another woman or two of his acquaintance before identifying the individual he wanted to speak to.

It is much easier for kids to remember quickly. Decades of data are not stored in layers of files scattered throughout their brains. It is effortless locating information when facts and figures are neatly stockpiled in carefully labeled brain bins. Musty, dusty files are haphazardly strewn everywhere in the brains of older folks. New data intermingles with old records.

I should be happy with a rich storehouse of information at my fingertips, or more accurately my brain cells, compiled over years of living. On the other hand a lot of it is superfluous, taking up space and making it more difficult and time consuming to find important stuff when needed.

There is no pill or medical fix to CRS. I can do lots of crossword and Sudoku puzzles, eat brain-enriching foods, exercise my body, but the inevitable sooner or later occurs.

It might be the name of a person known for years, or the name of an author, a book, a song, a favorite band, or a particular word. The name is on the tip of the tongue, but I do not quite have it…I know it…wait…it’s here…I know I know it…the name is…and sometimes retrieve it in a few minutes. Other times, hours later or the next day or week, the information suddenly materializes.

I guess it is better found eventually than never.

My CRS will only get worse over time.

I make lists so I do not forget to buy milk and whatever else is needed at the store, pick up the dry cleaning, and buy a birthday gift.

Of course I misplace the list, forget about the dry cleaning, and buy the birthday gift on the way to the party.

But I bought the milk and groceries.

And when I cannot remember the name of that band or old TV show, I search Google.

I guess the Internet came along just in time, an effective and valuable tool comprising the new look of geezerhood in the 21st century.


Thank you, Al Gore.

7 comments:

  1. Thinning neuron connections, I think. But you're right, it's all still in there.

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  2. If everything in life were multiple choice, I'd do much better on the tests. On thing I've noticed is that I don't remember faces. I honestly don't remember people, especially if I encounter them out of their usual context. This aging stuff is really quite interesting when you think about it!

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  3. I'm sure it's all in your mind. I have always mixed up things, including names, and forgotten where I left them. The problem as we age is we begin to notice. Dianne

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  4. Always good to have a name for the condition--CRS. So glad I am not alone.

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  5. Well, you know what they say. It's not a problem if you forget where your car keys are. It's only a problem when you find your keys, and you can't remember what they're for.

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  6. Yes, what Tom said. I also cannot remember names of people I met just minutes before. Information overload, maybe? Or maybe the brain just doesn't manage to make the connection from short-term to long-term memory. Sometimes it bothers me. Mostly I just let it go. :-)

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  7. Yes, but CRS is actually the result of our own brilliance. We just plain know so much that it's hard to either add something new or extract what we want from the bottom of that particular teetering stack of files.
    Or so I tell myself.

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