New Year challenge: Never say ‘senior moment’ again
My colleagues and I want to offer you a New Year Challenge: never say ‘senior moment’ again. Forgetting a name or where we put our keys is not the first sign of age related memory loss. However, it may be a sign that it is time to take a step back and examine how we are putting ourselves at risk for memory lapses.
October 2015 was an incredible month of travel, giving me the opportunity to interact with professionals from across the state. During this time, the SDSU Extension Rapid City Regional Center was moved to a new building. What’s more, I was enrolled in two classes. To say the least, I had a lot on my plate.
During one week, I was scheduled to leave on Wednesday for Mitchell. My plan was to stay overnight and attend a conference on Thursday. All day Monday I was convinced that I was supposed to leave Tuesday. Tuesday morning arrived and I was completely packed and ready to go. I felt this odd sense that I was forgetting something. I was saying goodbye to my significant other, Greg, when it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t supposed to leave until the next day. This took place a few days before my 34th Birthday.
What’s the takeaway message from my story of forgetting? I was experiencing a great deal of stress (moving, travel, and college coursework), engaging in poor sleep and mental rest habits, and I was neglecting my exercise routine. No matter our age, we are vulnerable to memory issues, if we neglect any of the cogwheels of brain health.
We are doing a disservice to ourselves by referring to forgetting as ‘senior moments,’ because it does not allow us to examine our life to identify factors that may be contributing to our inability to remember a name, word, or where we put something. So next time you can’t remember, we urge you to ask yourself the following questions:
• Are you experiencing or recovering from illness?
• Have you started or stopped a medication recently?
• Are your experiencing personal challenges (e.g. loss of loved one, financial hardship, etc.)?
• Do you feel lonely?
• Do you experience challenges getting or eating nutritious foods?
• Are you having difficulty falling or staying asleep?
• Are you experiencing sadness or stress?
• Do you sit for extended periods of time without any standing or stretching breaks?
• Do you avoid activities such as walking or strength training?
• Have you avoided opportunities to learn new information or skills?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, your cog wheels might need some attention. The brain health article series we developed provides some strategies to help you reduce your risk of developing memory loss.
Research tells us that perceptions of age-related memory loss are largely overblown. Typically memory loss is the result of disease such as dementia or trauma (e.g. a major head injury). A cure for memory loss is not available. Our only options are to reduce our risk of developing the disease by engaging in habits shown to promote brain health.
Let’s return to my story of forgetting. I realized I had been neglecting my health, resulting in my memory lapse. As a result, I took a mental break from school and work. I made a solid effort to better manage the stress I was experiencing by incorporating movement into my daily activities and ensuring I was getting enough sleep.