She could deal with constantly forgetting her shopping list, and she'd made
a habit of writing down where she'd parked her car, each and every time. But in
her mid-50s, Janis Mara's memory problems started costing her money. Late fees
began piling up because she forgot to pay her bills.
"Over time, it really intensified," she says. "I wanted to think
I was just getting older, but my fear was that it was Alzheimer's."
When dance instructor Joan Price of Sebastopol, Calif., met the love of her life in her line dancing class at the age of 57, she was already wise to the steps and spins of modern dating, especially when it came to sex. She had been dating for years following her divorce, mostly short-term relationships, and was always careful to use condoms in bed.
Price, author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, says that when she and her now husband were ready to get intimate,...
After bugging her HMO for an MRI, Mara discovered that her lapses weren't
anything to worry about. She was simply going through a bit of age-related
These annoying senior moments are the result of a decline in brain activity
that shows up in your 50s and affects most people older than age 65, according
to Kirk Erickson, a psychology postdoctoral research associate at the
University of Illinois who studies the relationship between memory and
Scientists don't know whether age-related memory loss is caused by decreased
blood flow to the brain or loss of brain cells; many different brain areas can
Forgetting people's names, where you left your keys, or what you were doing
a moment ago are normal. But forgetting the name of a family member or what
those keys are used for is a sign of more serious problems.
You may feel that your brain is turning to goo, but age-related memory loss
doesn't keep getting worse. In fact, older folks are actually better than their
younger peers at some memory-related tasks, such as crossword puzzles, Erickson
says. Plus, you can stop the decline and even reverse some loss.
How? By making positive lifestyle changes -- the same habits that protect
your heart, bones, and lungs, Erickson says. And it's never too late. "The
brain is relatively malleable," Erickson says, "even into old age."
Erickson recommends these tactics to help keep neurons, nerve cells in the
Exercise: Aerobic training increases the supply of blood to the
brain, spurs the development of new neurons, and forges more connections
between them. All it takes to benefit is 45 minutes of moderate aerobic
exercise, such as walking, three times a week.