ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up 2009
GAY AND GRAY: Gay and Blessed with Holidays

Health Advantage to Short Term Memory Loss?

[Dick Klade, who blogs at Gabby Geezer, has added his photo to the Where Elders Blog feature. You can see it here.]

A month or so ago, curious about how much she moves around in a day, Crabby Old Lady attached her pedometer one morning and was surprised, at bedtime, to find she had walked just over two miles without leaving the house. Two miles! And it wasn't even a particularly busy day. Here are two of the reasons:

Wanting a cup of tea, Crabby got up from her desk in the front of her home meaning to pick up, on her way to the kitchen in the back of the house, a magazine she had left in the bedroom. As she set the water to boil, she realized she had forgotten the magazine, so she walked halfway back toward her office to the bedroom, got the magazine, returned to the kitchen, made the tea and walked back to her office where she remembered that she had left the magazine in the kitchen.

So it was back to the kitchen, the full length of Crabby's home, and then a return to the office having walked two-and-a-half times as far as she would have if her memory hadn't failed – twice in the space of ten minutes.

Later in the afternoon, Crabby went downstairs to pick up the day's mail. While on the porch, she heard her neighbor call out, so she crossed the street for a ten-minute chat, then climbed the stairs back home. Settled again at her desk, she realized she had forgotten the mail. Down the stairs she went again, and back up.

If you are as old as Crabby Old Lady is – even younger, perhaps, and older too – you know the drill: you find yourself standing in the bedroom or kitchen or elsewhere in the house wondering, as if just wakened from a dream, why. There must a reason you interrupted reading the novel that deeply engaged you or left the pile of laundry you were folding. But it won't come to mind. Similar memory glitches happen away from home too.

Last week, there were three last-minute grocery items Crabby needed. Only one could be purchased at the local deli a few blocks away, so she drove to the supermarket where she could get all three in one place. Of course, her memory being the sieve that it is, she could recall only two of the items and the third did not come to mind again until she had returned home and saw the baking equipment on the counter.

(It is a mysterious phenomenon that while Crabby can remember the number of items she needs at the store, when one or more disappear from her mind, she easily convinces herself that a forgotten item is not important – until she gets home.)

Fortunately that day, the missing item was the heavy cream she needed for the onion tarte which is available at the deli – a nice seven-block walk each way (even in cold weather when she bundles up) and, with a bit of wandering to see Christmas decorations in the neighborhood, she put a mile-and-a-half on her pedometer.

Short-term memory problems are an annoying accompaniment to getting old. No matter how much Crabby tells herself that she has always had such incidents as forgetting the reason she walked into a room, she knows it happens more frequently now. She likes to blame it on her life-long, daily to-do lists thereby depriving her memory of regular workouts, but that's just an excuse. Old is old and things go wrong (although Crabby is grateful that she, so far, is mostly free of age-related conditions).

Nevertheless, it makes Crabby crabbier than usual to spend increasing amounts of time repeating herself to make up for her forgetfulness and contrary to what you might think, Crabby doesn't enjoy being crabby – at least, not on personal matters.

Then Crabby had a moment of insight: perhaps the at-home pedometer experiment had revealed an opportunity.

What if, Crabby mused, she turned her annoyance on its head and viewed the repeated walking around her home and neighborhood as a chance for a little more exercise? With a slight attitude shift, her memory malfunctions would become useful, a health benefit, and she would be relieved of serial irritation with herself too.

These thoughts led to the fanciful notion that if Crabby were not indoctrinated by a youth-centric culture to see the vicissitudes of age as a bummer, she would find advantage in them - when one door closes, another opens, as business gurus like to preach.

So now when Crabby's memory seizes up, she welcomes the chance to get off her butt for awhile, and she is busily exploring what other age-related lemons she can turn into lemonade.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: An Original Christmas Song


Ah... I do believe I can discern the influence of our favorite geriatrician - the esteemed Dr W. H. Thomas - on Crabby's mindset.
Thanks for the neat re-frame!

I understand. Someone wiser than I said, "As I age I wonder more and more about the hereafter because I keep forgetting what I'm here after." Sigh.

I started using TeuxDeux on my pc to see if that would help and it does. At the end of the day, I can look at the TeuxDeux screen and see a list of all that I have forgotten during that day. Ah, technology!

TeuxDeux. What a good idea! I stopped using Google Calendar 'cos I got sick of the emails. This looks a lot more my style. Thanks, Steven.

Always look for the silver lining is what I say!! I think I should wear a pedometer for a day or two. It might surprise me, too.

Great post! Now, if you can just find some hidden health benefits for frequent peeing, thinning hair, stiff joints and overall klutziness. I look forward to reading the results of your studies on those annoying aspects of aging.
Cheers, and happy new year!

Paula--Please note that, undoubtedly, with all that lemonade, Ronni is adding to the "frequent peeing" problem. Of course, that "problem" becomes another excuse for more exercise which seems to mean that she is positively re-inforcing of her lemon/lemonade cycle.

Ronni--I frequently think, as you have written, about the exercise I am getting just "running" among the rooms of the house. I'll have to put on my pedometer to check out how much exercise I actually incur. Not much, I'm sure; but, it beat wearing out the seat of my recliner!

Thank you, I knew it, I knew it. My 10 trips out the door to add to my recycle bin each time (instead of one large trip) are paying off!!

Kudos for the "get off your butt" statement. That one sentence will help most folks, senior or otherwise, more than anything.

As to the trip to the supermarket; I insist on a list for any trip requiring more than one thing. It saves misery and gas.

Happy New Year Ronni,


I read that the best exercise program is one that is as close to normal life as possible, more likelihood of sticking to it. On that basis, Crabby has found the best way to incorporate exercise into her life. If her memory was better she would be forced to pay big money to join a gym and make a spectacle of herself on a treadmill!


Like Rich, I always take a list ... except when I leave it on the table next to where my purse was...*

Information overload, distractions, media hype and pharmafake "infomercials"." Fagetabout it". The more you worry about memory problems, the more memory problems you get. Don't worry be happy.

Living in a three story condo, I avoid going back for things I've forgotten. I'll rethink that now. Thanks Crabby.

Thank you, Ronni/Crabby; now I remember that I will wear my pedometer-a resolution that I made eons ago and forgot....in fact - I made a place to hang it so it will be among the first things I see everyday...wow is my life exciting...now to just get off the couch and move my fat "butt." By the way on Sundance Channel, I watched an hour doc. called A Slim Peace...very interesting. HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE AND A HEALTHY ONE TOO!!!!!

You finally get what I've been saying since I first came here -- it's the LANGUAGE -- the language we tell ourselves that can make a difference.

Love your attitude!

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