Forgetting a few things as you age is good, not bad!

Well what a relief! We all either worry or chuckle about our own forgetfulness, and that of others, now and then; and in discussions around cognitive decline and dementia memory loss is often the focus of concern. 

But this recent scientific study gives us a different perspective. The abstract (scientific summary of the study) is here and it is a bit confusing to read - but what they are saying is that remembering is as important as forgetting. It makes sense really - the longer we live, the more memories are potentially made - we just can't hold onto them all so forgetting is also part of the process.

What we need to live and survive is to prioritise memories that keep us safe, keep us nourishing our bodies and being able to do the things we enjoy and interact with all that is around us. Some memories are just not really that important to survival. Sure, we might wish we had the answer for the capital of Bolivia, the chemical ingredients in soap or the formula to calculate the volume of a sphere when we are at the local trivia night....but it may be some of those memories have been 'deleted' or 'archived' in favour of new ones over the years and they elude us!

Similarly, putting the milk in the cupboard and the rolled oats in the fridge after breakfast might have us wondering what's going on, but as long as the mistake is later recognised and rectified, this research asserts that's actually a sign we are doing well, not that we are on a downward cognitive spiral.

Everyday forgetfulness with age could therefore be a sign of a helpful adaptation to our busy lives, not something to fear. 

What is of concern, and requires proper assessment, is when memory issues impact the ability to do the things we need to live comfortably and safely in the world around us - when its not forgetting where the car keys are, but forgetting what a car is, or not being able to find the way home.

The study is here if you are interested in reading more on what the researchers found.