Ever had your Grandma ask you if you have seen her glasses when it’s perched at the top of her head? Or does Grandpa often calls you by your brother’s name instead of your own? Some of these memory lapses are amusing at best, or they could be a little distressing for our seniors who lament such cognitive slip-ups.
According to medical experts, such occasional bouts of forgetfulness are a natural part of aging for most people, and not necessarily signs of dementia. Rather, they may be the result of other issues like lack of sleep, stress and anxiety, certain medications or other underlying health problems.
Here’s what we know about age-related memory decline, plus a few simple ways we can help our grandfolks, and our future selves, stay sharp.
Older folks remember stuff that really matters
Much of memory research has focused on testing people’s ability to remember mundane word lists or pictures. But when cognitive scientists tested them on things that really matter – like medication side effects or a grandchild’s food allergies, they found that older adults’ ability to remember vital health information were just as good as their younger counterparts. In other words, granddad knows how to sieve the wheat from the chaff and retain only the essentials.
Memory tip: To help Grandpa remember better, focus on essential information. For example, separate important medication from vitamins or health supplements and place the meds in a prominent place.
Older folks remember what they find interesting
Seniors recall and absorb interesting bits of trivia or stories just as well as younger folks. Researchers have found that information that engage or pique older adults’ curiosity are better retained than mundane facts.
Memory tip: To help your grandparents retain crucial information better, link it with something interesting. If Grandma has trouble remembering how to stay safe during the pandemic period, share with her interesting nuggets of relevant news – all the cool mask designs you’ve spotted, kind neighbours setting up sanitisers in lifts for others to use, or the amusing extremes people would go to in order to keep a safe distance!
Older folks remember when they need to perform a future task
All of us rely on something called “prospective memory” to carry out future actions; from paying our credit card bill on a particular date to returning a library book on time. Cognitive scientists have found that in a real-world setting, older adults fare better at carrying out future tasks than younger ones. That’s because older folks have learnt to develop memory coping strategies over time; like writing to-dos down on a calendar.
Memory tip: Use memory triggers as reminders to help your grandparents recall. They could be simple modifications like placing their morning medication next to their coffee cup, or their face masks next to their door keys.
Penciling in important appointments on their calendars is also one common but useful way. Of which, making health-related appointments are probably the most significant. These should not only include routine check-ups, but also encompass key preventive measures such as getting their timely Influenza (flu) and pneumococcal vaccinations, to protect them against serious vaccine-preventable diseases.
Under the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS), influenza (flu) and pneumococcal vaccinations are recommended for seniors aged 65 and above and adults 18 to 64 years old with certain medical conditions. From 1 November 2020, subsidies for vaccinations recommended under the NAIS will be available for eligible Singaporeans at CHAS GP clinics and polyclinics. The remaining co-payment is claimable via MediSave. Speak to your doctor to find out more.
Stay one step ahead and get the subsidised flu and pneumococcal vaccinations today. Click here for more information on the subsidies available.