Is your memory going or are you just getting old?

Posted on by Nancy Slessenger This entry was posted in Brain, Memory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.



Last week I was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I went to see a show based on one of my

Cast of Noggin the Nog complete with Ice Dragon and Ronf at the Edinburgh Fringe

Cast of Noggin the Nog complete with Ice Dragon and Ronf at the Edinburgh Fringe

favourite TV shows from my childhood,  Noggin the Nog.



I loved it. It was staged very cleverly by Third Party Productions and was great fun. And they stuck to the original story, I know because I remember it so well.



Yet at the end of that day, we were running through the other shows we’d seen so far over our dinner.  Tom Stade (stand up comedian, extremely funny), Worby and Farrell (piano duets, also very good), Hennessy and Friends (hilarious sketches), Much Ado About Nothing (Year Out Drama Company – superb and very funny with great music), Simon Callow (probably a bit over our heads) and one other. But we just couldn’t remember who or what it was.



Is your memory going or are you just getting old?


Guess what? Your memory problems might be because you are getting older, but not in a bad way.

Guess what? It might be because you are getting older, but not in a bad way.



You have probably been under the impression that your memory naturally declines with age.



Michael Ramscar, who leads a research team in Germany, has done research into this area. He says his research shows that the reason you find it hard to remember things when you are older is because there is just much more in your memory.



He’s looked at various learning models and simulated experiences that adults have with language when then have a lifetime of experience. This shows that all that experience slows you down; not your memory failing.




There’s more in there



He suggests that your memory is ‘fuller’.



Do you remember your new (empty) computer booting up in no time at all? And what about your older computer with a nearly full hard disc? As you have filled it with more and more data, it takes longer. He says it’s the same for your brain.



When he has tested people and corrected for these factors, he has found no difference in cognitive performance.



Not everyone agrees with this. But for those of us approaching “the new 40” (60) it is welcome news.



However others say that processing speed does slow down and have their own research showing the effect.



But they all seem to agree, you shouldn’t write off people just because of their age. The science says that there is no reason for people to have to retire because of their age. They say we should stop seeing old age as a burden and think of it as an asset. That’s certainly my plan.




A price worth paying


Any slowing of performance is the price you pay for having experience and knowledge (sometimes referred to as “wisdom”).




Keep that brain working


To keep your brain working, as you will know if you’ve been reading these blogs for much time at all, you need to get exercise above all other things. Aerobic exercise improves the blood supply to your brain; it encourages you to grow new arteries and capillaries. So you get more fuel into your brain.



But better than that, it helps to release neurotrophic factors, which help you to grow new brain cells.



So what you are you waiting for? Get those trainers on and get out there.



Oh yes, and we did remember the show we had forgotten. It was Vladimir McTavish and Keir McAllister with special guest star Rory Bremner discussing, with great humour, the question of Scottish Independence. How could we have forgotten that?


3 Responses to “Is your memory going or are you just getting old?”

  1. August 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Excellent observations as always Nancy and also chimes with Seligman’s work in Positive Psychology in relation to character strengths and virtues which identifies “wisdom and knowledge” as a key strength (Seligman, et al, 2005).

    Personally I have noticed changes in my memory with ageing but also realise that I can remember things with effort and strategy (not to mention the use of Evernote!)

    Thanks for highlighting Ramscar’s research!

    all best wishes, Renée

    • August 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

      bibliographic info for the reference I cited:

      Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421.

      Also – memory support also comes in the guise of great software – e.g. Zotero! free software which is a real boon when it comes to keep a track of your sources! (just used it to put the citation in above)

  2. April 6, 2015 at 9:11 am

    For “neurotripoc factors”, please substitute “neurotrophic factors” …