With what I believe is the excessive amount of media attention given to Alzheimer's and other dementias, elders can be forgiven for being overly concerned about where they misplaced the house keys.
We console ourselves with such slogans as, “If you can't remember where your glasses are, that's normal; if you don't remember what they're for, you're in trouble.” Or by invoking the well-used “senior moment,” a phrase that hasn't been funny since the first time you heard it 20 years ago.
We oldies work hard at whistling past the graveyard in our fear of Alzheimer's but none of it removes one of the stigmas attached by people of all ages, by the culture at large, to elders: that our memories are unreliable and continue to decay until we either die or succumb to one of the dementias.
But it is just not true or, rather, not very much more true than for younger adults (just for fun, let's call them pre-elders).
How do I know that? One of the advantages of creating more time for quiet and solitude (see last week's post on that topic), is that actual thinking can go on at leisure and sometimes that produces a wholly new idea or conclusion. Such as this:
Have you ever noticed how many ways we have in the English language to blow off our poor memories? Without any effort, I came up with this obviously incomplete list of common, everyday phrases we've been using since childhood to account for our forgetfulness:
It slipped my mind
I must have overlooked that
If I remember correctly
Who knows? Not me
My mind went blank
Oh, I completely forgot
It's on the tip of my tongue
I must have mis-remembered that
If I'm not mistaken
That doesn't ring a bell
As far as I can recall
Remind me again about that...
When I look through those phrases that I have both said and heard from others a zillion times throughout all my life, I wonder how often forgetfulness is tested among people of all ages.
I haven't looked into it, but I'd lay down a few dollars on a bet that it's only old folks researchers bother to examine for memory lapses and they have no idea how frequently pre-elders forget things.
Pretty much all old people I know and many TGB readers who have commented here on memory issues in the past believe they are more forgetful than when they were younger. Is it possible, do you think, that we believe so only because we have spent a lifetime "knowing" old people are forgetful?
It goes without saying that dementia is a terrible disease but not for the majority of us and maybe elders' forgetfulness is, like that of younger people, mostly due to absentmindedness and too much multi-tasking.
Why else would there be so many ways to talk about forgetting?