Thoughts on memory loss – the “relaxed memory”

There is a natural tendency to lose memory as one gets older.  I was always told this was due to “age” and is a physical change in ones brain.  Just as our bodies cease to function efficiently as we get older, so does our brain, resulting in things like memory loss.  But, over the years, I have seem to think that it isn’t always caused by “age”.  

This observation first began with myself.  Beginning in my late 30’s I  found myself forgetting stuff all the time.  I was particularly stunned by how I would forget the names of things I’ve known for years.  I would even think the name of something and couldn’t recall it some minutes later.  At first it worried me.  As I began to look at it more closely I found that my “memory loss” was not memory loss at all but a change in attitude and perspective that happened as I got older.  It seemed to revolve around these qualities:

  • A way of life or how a person lives their life.
  • An attitude or perspective of life.

As we get older we see a change in these things.  Basically, they often change in such a way that memory isn’t as critical as it once was.

I began to see similar themes in older people, particularly when they were 70 or so years old.  Everyone said they were ‘losing their memory’ but I questioned it.  As I watched them, though, I could see familiar themes.  In short, it appeared to me that the retired apathetic life of older people made it so they “lost” memory . . . their way of life and attitude changed.

I sometimes speak of this as “relaxed memory”.  This is when certain ways or attitudes a person takes makes it so that they don’t remember as well, giving the illusion of memory loss. 

Some of these things that cause the “relaxed memory” are:

  • As we get older we cease “absorbing” things anymore.  When we are young, life is nothing but one big absorping of things.  This fades as we get older.
  • As we get older life, really, becomes a repetition of the same thing over and over again.  As a result, there is a tendency to ‘gloss’ over things and cease paying attention to things” making it so that there is nothing to ‘remember’.
  • As we get older, we have remembered so much that memory becomes a blur.  Life becomes just one memory after another.  In a way, memory becomes a ‘burden’.  This often makes us not as willing to remember as we used to.
  • When we get older we are having to do things that take more of our energy.  We have responsibilities and worries that make memory take a ‘back seat’. 
  • As we get older we develop a pattern of ‘selective remembering’.  We remember things that we want to and “forget” the rest.
  • As we get older we become more rigid in our thought and ways.  This rigid thought makes us so we only “absorb” certain things and in a certain context, making us miss many things.  In many ways, as we age we tend to get more narrow in our outlook, making it so that we remember less and less.

All these things create a situation of what appears to be memory loss.  

When we retire and reach old age the change in life and attitude offer even more reasons to “lose” memory.  Often, it can affect it quite drastically, making it seem like a clinical problem.  Some of the things that make retirement and old age more prone to “lost” memory include:

  • Life becomes more apathetic.
  • The mind is not centered on doing things.
  • A person is not participating in life. 
  • A person becomes disconnected with life. 
  • They often sit and watch TV, letting it ‘live’ for them.
  • They become even more rigid in their mentality.
  • An attitude of resignation toward life.

All these make memory “loss” more pronounced in retirement and old age. 

But if we look at all the causes we see certain traits that lead to the “relaxed memory loss”:

  • The fact that we have less need for ‘absorbing’ as we grow.
  • Being too set in our ways.
  • Not having a spontaneity and variety in our life.
  • Having other things that takes up our energy.
  • Having too many concerns.
  • Not living deliberately.
  • Not having an attitude of wanting to be in life.

We tend to take memory for granted.   We think its always supposed to be there.   But the truth of the matter is that memory needs a reason to be.  It needs a reason to exist.  It needs a use.  If it doesn’t then it doesn’t work that well.  The memory loss seen in “relaxed memory” seems to be because our memory is not being used or isn’t needing to be used. 

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