Common knowledge tells us that as we age that we likely will become forgetful. Some fortunate few people remain sharp as a tack as they near their hundredth birthday. These people are lucid and recall life events, places, and people.
Types of Cognition and Memory
But even so, they are using a type of cognitive ability that draws upon recalling experiences more than on synthesizing new information. Accepted thought on the subject suggests that:
“The architecture of cognition changes as we age. Fluid intellectual abilities decline while crystalized abilities remain stable or increase.”
Fluid reasoning is how we assimilate and integrate new information gained by logical analysis and recognizing patterns as we think about a problem or come to a decision. Young persons have to rely on this as novel situations are common. As a person ages, he or she shows less reliance on fluid construction of thought.
Crystalized knowledge supports problem-solving by relying on accumulated knowledge. This tends to remain constant or even increase throughout the adulthood.
Memory can be an act as in remembering where we put our keys a few minutes ago, or a decades old flash of thought of a sunny summer day drinking lemonade under a backyard tree with family.
The recognition of short term and long term memory is undisputed. But the introduction of the concept of working memory as a processing or manipulation of short term memory and longterm memory is much argued.
There is also the physiological and neurological process of creating a memory and recalling that memory. The remembering process is always a reconstruction. And at some point the working memory, or the manipulation of what is in short term holding is encoded into something more permanent.
This working memory or the ability to manipulate not yet stored information seems to be where decline over time occurs as a natural part of aging.
What is Normal Memory as We Age?
Natural change in memory is nothing to worry about. We accumulate wisdom and we use it. The memory process changes as we age.
This change is not related to Alzheimers, dementia, or other illnesses. If you have concerns about remembering or forgetting the National Institute on Aging created the following infographic to help you determine what course of action to take.
Age certainly impacts how we think. But do we have to lose fluid intelligence as we age?
Some Old Dogs Do Learn New Tricks
There are things that help with maintaining fluidity of thought, novel problem solving, and creativity in general. Exercise and a good diet are a no-brainer, but add meditation and studies show improvement in visual-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.
Research also shows that fluidity of thought can be increased through cognitive training and aerobic exercise.
My personal inclination is to keep reading real scientific literature reported in reputable science reporting. It can’t hurt.
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