Is My Memory Normal?

By on July 1, 2013

By Gillian Eadie –

Jennifer writes: Yesterday I promised to have a friend to witness my signature on a legal paper and, when I called in to her place for coffee and a chat, I not only forgot all about asking her to do this for me, I left the document on the table at home!

I was important so why did I forget? And that’s not all – I was at tennis the other day and went to introduce two of my friends and one of the names just vanished. It was really embarrassing ….

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Are these memory lapses normal?  I’m 59.

Gillian replies: Memory changes happen to all of us after the age of 50+. What makes the difference, Jennifer, is how we respond to the occasional forgetting that happens.

The most dangerous response is: I’m getting older so I will just have to accept it.

You DON’T have to accept forgetting at any age.
You DO have to take active steps to help your brain remember well.

One of the greatest enemies of a sharp memory is not paying attention.

It is so easy to let your mind drift off when you are being introduced to someone – looking at her new dress or shoes rather than actively listening for the name, for example. Remembering well relies on staying ‘in the moment’ and actively noticing details.

Take, for example, that legal document. If you had focused on it for a second or two, mentally visualising yourself handing it to your friend – maybe even taking a ‘mental photograph’ of that action, then this processing would have ensured that the task was secure in your long term memory. I know it seems a hassle but it works! Use it when you park the car, or put your keys down, too.

Anything you see or are told will stay in your short-term memory for only 3 or so seconds before it is lost forever, unless you make the mental effort to encode it. (Find out more)

Is your short-term memory ‘normal ‘? You can test yourself by finding out many words can you remember using this exercise Is my short-term memory normal?

Forgetting can be a worry once you reach the age of 50+ so it is sensible to start building up strategies that will compensate for the inevitable memory changes that occur.
You can stay in control.

Gillian Eadie, MEd, BA, Dip.Tchg, LTCL, Churchill Fellow
Brain and memory Foundation

About Gillian Eadie


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Is My Memory Normal?