December/May Romance

Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder

Earlier this week, I received this email note from Peter Tibbles, he who runs the Sunday Elder Music column and is a handful of years younger than I am:

”This morning I decided to take some cardboard down to the recycle bin (and yes, they were empty wine boxes). So with laden hands, I unlocked the door and attempted to pull the key out of the lock (I have a deadlock and I leave the key in the lock when I'm home).

“It wouldn't come out. I tried and tried, but nothing. Well, the door was open so I decided to take the cardboard downstairs and check it later, making sure that the downstairs door was snibbed open.


“Well, I got back and the key still wouldn't come out of the lock no matter what I did. Then it occurred to me that it should be aligned at 3 o'clock to come out, not 6 o'clock as I was trying to do.

“Thirty years I've been here.

“I offer these mitigating circumstances: the lock on the other side of the door requires the 6 o'clock orientation to remove the key. Perhaps I didn't know if I was inside or outside.”

Oh, I know all about such a memory lapse. They happen to me all the time. It takes a good deal longer than necessary to get blog posts done because I frequently have to hunt for the feature I want in OpenOffice or or my email.

Peter has his 30 years using that lock. I have two decades using these computer programs; I should be able to function with them in my sleep. But nooooooo.

A few days ago, my Kindle needed charging. I opened the drawer where the cable lives and – oops, nothing there. I stared in disbelief; I'm good at returning items to where they belong.

It took a few hours for me to recall that a month or two ago I had moved the cable to a drawer in another room.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. I had broken one of my own long-standing rules for being old: never, ever change the place where you have stored a tool for a long time because the first storage place will stick in your mind forever and you might never find the tool again.

These – Peter's and my own memory-related mistakes – will not be unfamiliar to most of you who read this blog. I have dozens of other examples and I'm sure you do too.

Yesterday, I heard from cyber-friend and fellow New Yorker, Esther Harriott. You may remember her name from the story here two years ago about her excellent book, Writers and Age: Essays on and Interviews with Five Authors.

Esther included a link to a video that has a load of fun with the topic of today's post. It may be as vaguely familiar to some of you as it was to me yesterday. I was surprised find that it had been posted in these pages as a written joke in 2007, and in 2011, this self-same video - which further underlines the transitory nature of elder memory - or, at least, mine. Enjoy.

I'm no doctor or medical researcher but I'm pretty sure none of these incidents should be read as incipient dementia. It's just, as the video says, age-activated attention deficit disorder. Nothing to do but live with it.


Oodles of thanks for this reminder to you & Peter. It couldn't have come at a better time/day. I'm so very glad to know that as I start each befuddled day, I'm in the best of company! Interesting as well is knowing this condition is universal & not just an American malady. Have a great w/end. Dee:)

Timely post...hubby and I are having a contest this morning on which one is having the most senior moments before breakfast. He is winning 3, to my 1. Also, he forgot what the term "dead head the roses" means, but in all fairness we don't say that often.

That is my life! Thanks for posting the video.

Several years ago I went on a ten-day retreat. Hubby stayed home. He was cleaning the kitchen and noticed what horrible condition the paint on the walls was in. He decided to paint the kitchen. That required washing the walls. While looking for the cleaning materials for that job, he noticed other tasks needing attention. As he tells it, what followed was over a week of the entire house in total chaos, drawers left open, tools strewn all over, carelessly moved appliances he'd broken needing replacement before I arrived home, and more. It was still in that condition until the hour before I came home.

He has not attempted a major chore since.

Oh yes, a familiar experience. I also read recently that the problem involves boundaries.
If I recall it correctly, (maybe I should have written it down, but then I can never find my notes), this is what happens.

You get up from the kitchen table to go get a new book of checks, but when you get into the room where you keep the checks, you forgot why you're there. Apparently when you
cross the threshold from one room to the next, the thought stays behind where it originated.

I've learned to relax and just step back into the room and it comes to mind again. Then I run like heck to where I'm going before I forget again. It works most of the time.

Estelle D...

It's called "the door effect" and I posted a video about it a couple of weeks ago. You will find it here. Scroll down a little.

Good video for a morning wake-up. Estelle's comment was hilarious, and I'm going to try her method when the time, the inevitable time, will arise again.

Love this. I feel much better about my missing reading glasses!

"I spend a lot of time in the hereafter now. I walk into one room after another, saying "Now what am I here after???" Told to me by a lovely gentleman in Canyon de Chelly.

I found my earplugs exactly where I put them after my last visit to my daughter's, which I call the "decibel" household. Trouble was, I couoldn't find them until after I visited again and had really needed them to sleep. Problem: I moved their loation. Bad idea. Now, do I leave them there or put them back where I used to keep them? Hmmm.

Although I usually NOW complete my tasks, I see this malady creeping up on my persona. It is frightening, but I am secure I am not going to be the only one. After all, my wife is 11 years younger so I can watch as it happens to her. I'm not quite seventy and she is not quite sixty. When she arrives at sixty, we will retire. I am still working, so have a schedule and demands to meet. When we both retire, I expect the u-tubed fun to begin!

Thank you so much for sharing this video. Now I don't feel so nuts. I watched it twice now and can not stop laughing. So hard I cried. Laughter is good medicine. This is sooo me. I really enjoyed it.
Thanks Again.
I love your newsletter Time Goes By.

Hilarious video. I haven't gotten that bad ... yet. But I should remember the advice about not moving things. Of course, that will mean never straightening up the house, because the duct tape is on the coffee table, the dog's leash is on the dining table, the laundry detergent is on the kitchen counter, etc. I'm reminded of my mom's complaint after my dad retired. "He's always moving things and I can't ever find them." Hmmm ...

Tarzana, buy a second set!


I spend an inordinate amount of time searching for things that SHOULD be right THERE- where I left them! And as you said Ronni's a bad idea to relocate an item, sometimes never to be found again. If I'm lucky, they'll appear while I'm searching for something else.

Another thing, some wise person said, "The biggest lie we tell ourselves every day is: "I don't have to write that down, I'll remember it." Hah!

I fear I have always been a little bit this way. All my kitchen drawers have become junk drawers (except where the cutlery is). Getting dressed in the morning is a chore because my closets, no matter how I organize them, succumb to entropy within minutes. In addition, my clothes are often in the dryer, which is far enough from my bedroom so that I have innumerable distractions on the way. I have a few plant that are going to die if I do not get to them--after days of noticing that I need to water them, etc. etc. Thanks for the post, and I love the video--esp. where she says she doesn't know why she's so tired--she's been very busy all day.

When I was establishing my first household, a wise friend told me to be careful where I put things. Because where ever I lived from then on, I would likely try to put things in the same place. i.e. the silverware "always" goes in the drawer to the right of the sink, etc, etc. That friend was correct.

Now my biggest problem is those darn keys. Some time ago, to save my sanity, I decided they would only belong on a certain table in the hall. And that has lasted with a few exceptions since. Usually its when I am obligated to be at a certain place at a certain time, that they go missing. When I find them again, I yell at myself. This scolding lasts for a goodly number of months...and meanwhile, helps with a good laugh.

Yeah - Not age related for me. I've been this way all my adult life (official adult ADD) and probably as a child (but who can really remember back that far at 70). I'm willing to bet that most of us who see this in aging actually had similar behavior when younger.

So I am just used to dealing with it and have developed coping skills. Like carry the bills with you as you look for the check book, clean up the spill after you water the plants, etc. Does not always work but helps keep me on task better.

Oh, how I laughed at this! I try to be very consistent in where I put everything, simplify and declutter whenever I can, but sometimes this state descends out of nowhere.

Most recent example: 1) Put keys absentmindedly in wrong purse pocket. 2) Freak out twenty minutes later when keys are not in "right" purse pocket. 3) Panic for an hour retracing steps over and over to find "lost" keys. 4) Finally stumble on keys, safe and sound, in purse.

After that experience, I transitioned from "very consistent" to "insanely rigid." Never want to spend another hour like that!

Ohgodohgodohgod, so true! (Though in my case, I often find that MORE gets done this way, since I'm noticing so much stuff and doing little chores as they suddenly present themselves on my way to the now forgotten original task.

But what about the conversational equivalent? I'm talking with someone, and she says something that reminds me of a quote that would be ueful for her. But--before I tell her that, I have to explain how I came to hear this wonderful quote, and I get derailed into an uninteresting explanation of the circumstances I heard the quote in, but by then I've forgotten the quote and have gone off on an appalling side trip describing the organization I belong to where I happened to hear this thing, and the quote itself has gone down for the third time while I--and worse, my friend--still try to figure out why the hell I brought up this organization in the first place. Eeeeee!

P.S. It also happens in written communication. Please notice that, in my first paragraph above, the parenthesis never got closed. Happens to me all the time.

I no longer remember what I was going to do next long enough to leave the room I am in.

The one consolation I have for losing stuff is that when I am searching the entire house hunting for the lost item I find other stuff that has been missing for months. Invariably I find the item I am looking for in the first place I looked for it.

Every time I see that video it cracks me up!

I remember this video as one of those chain emails in the early days of the world wide net.

I locked my keys in my car 3X the last 2 years Dad was alive. He had a stroke, a heart attack and finally lung cancer. I had too much on my mind. I was tired. I worked FT.

When I am not fully present, i.e., I have a lot on my mind, I am tired or I am overwhelmed with a lot to do, I make mistakes like this. The worst memory mistake I make is with names. As I age, this gets worse. I will probably end up saying "whatchamacallit" like Dad.

Just relish the thought that you are in good company.

Thanks for the laugh, Ronni, that video cracked me up. That's my life too! I consistently "lose" my glasses and the TV remote. The glasses are the worst, since I'm so nearsighted it's hard to search for them without wearing them! But I've always been absentminded. When I was younger I used to regularly lose my wallet (!) and my credit card companies got used to me calling to cancel my cards, pretty much at least once a year.

Once my husband and I drove to a relative's house for Thanksgiving with the holiday pies on the roof. (Amazingly, they were intact and enjoyed by all.) And we used to regularly get in the car and start driving only to suddenly see a cup of liquid come crashing onto the windshield. We've since trained ourselves to yell "Coffee's on the roof!" whenever we put a cup up there.

Oh! SO glad there is a name for this!

This is familiar terrain.

We keep teasing each other about who forgot or misplaced what, when and why.

"It has to be here somewhere. You were the last person to use it,"

"How do you know that? Are you CSIS?"

So far, it's funny.

Constant reminders as we leave the house:

Locked and loaded?

OMG! Loved the video. This is why once we retire we don't know how we managed to get everything done while we were working.

SO frustrating, especially since I used to be a detail-oriented, multitasking, super-organized person. I try (but do not always succeed) NEVER to change the place I put things I need like glasses, keys, cleaning supplies, the cats' dishes, handbag, etc. I'm grateful that what I'm experiencing is likely not dementia, at least not yet, but it's aggravating as H*** all the same.

The funniest part of this post was the comments. Patty-in-New-York completely cracked me up. I, on the other hand, am completely organized with a place for everything and everything in its place. 😇 My keys ALWAYS go on the entry hall table. Which is why a month ago when I reached for my keys in the purse pocket where I keep them when I go out with someone else and didn't find them, I panicked. The "else," my son, happened to have a key. I frantically searched the house again and again, sure that they would turn up, but where?

My mail box key was on the same ring and when I didn't get any mail for three days---very unusual since I am usually besieged with junk mail---I went into a tailspin. I was sure that I had left the keys hanging in the mail box key slot (which had happened before) and someone was stealing my mail. Which meant that getting into my house was next on their agenda. I called a locksmith and bought a new mailbox lock. Once both entry door locks were changed, and the new mailbox lock installed, I relaxed. So a week or so later, I reached into my purse for my new keys and found the old key set right where it should have been, just a little deeper.

What a perfect "This is My Life" video. I'm still smiling.
Thanks, Ronni, you made my weekend.

So a further thought - I did enjoy with and identify with the video.


How is posting this for our enjoyment (so we can laugh at ourselves) much different from the SNL Alexa (Echo) skit and other senior jokes?

Is it ok to poke fun at ourselves bit others can't? Not trying to be snarky here but just wondering that if we want to resist ageism don't we have to not do it either?

I could write volumes on this but I don't have that kind of time. The basic difference is how much smarter this video is, being obviously based on the experiences of real old people giving a world of authenticity, nuance and sophistication. Undoubtedly it helps that the actor is an old person herself - we believe her and it wildly funny because we recognize its truth.

The Alexa/Echo skit, on the other hand, is based on widely perpetuated false stereotypes, played by young actors pretending to be what they think all old people are like, not what the vast majority of old people are really like. Their gross exaggeration of the normal difficulties that some elders experience makes it further demeaning.

In addition, it is deeply lazy writing, acting and production; a duplicate of the ONLY way old people are presented in comedic situations.

I just spent about 40 minutes reading emails, looking up something in snopes I got in an email, checking on-line Magic Jack messages, and re-reading this blog when I remembered I got on-line to look at the TV Guide...does this count?

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