Memory, as I Get Older

old woman
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I’ve always been bad at recalling names, so at least I know that isn’t age-related. I’m equally bad at recognising faces. I was often in trouble as a teen for cutting people socially who I had previously been introduced to at family events.

I recently discovered there is such a thing as face-blindness that I may have in a mild form. Prosopagnosia is with you from birth and not a particular feature of ageing. And I’d thought I was just unobservant.

But now it isn’t just names I forget. Some years before I retired, I began to lose words, often fumbling for the term I wanted mid-conversation. Not necessarily long or esoteric ones, but everyday words eluded me.

To supplement my love of logic puzzles, I began writing in retirement as an attempt to exercise the left side of the brain that controls language. (Although, apparently, the right side controls memory as well as logic and numbers.)

Has it helped? I still find myself fishing around the pea-soup of my brain for the word I want that I’m certain exists. I use online thesauruses a lot and sometimes discover the word I’m groping for doesn’t appear to exist after all. (I plan to make up my own when this happens in future.)

Tasks, shopping, storylines… that I think I can’t possibly forget, all disappear into the ether. When I tell myself, ‘I must write that down before I forget it,’ I’ll have forgotten to put it on the calendar, or add it to the shopping list or find my notebook by the time I finish what I am doing. Or I open the notebook and discover I’ve forgotten what I wanted to jot down.

I recently wanted some large sheets of paper and didn’t have any. I decided the next time I had a parcel delivery with its box padded out with crumpled paper, I would flatten the paper, fold it, and keep it for this very purpose.

Amazingly, I remembered to do this when my next delivery arrived. The trouble is, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to save it for.

No doubt I’ll remember when that situation arises again. (Was it for backing something I wanted to spray-paint? Had I wanted to wrap something for posting?)

But will I remember where I’ve put it?

panic button on keyboard

Much more frightening…

is when I look at things and don’t see them.

This one haunts me since I learned about the first time Sir Terry Pratchett realised for certain that he had a problem – which turned out to be Alzheimers.

Rob Wilkins, Pratchett’s long-term assistant and collaborator on his autobiography, recalls the day Sir Terry complained that the ‘S’ had gone from his computer’s keyboard. He couldn’t find it.

I recalled this account after I’d searched in vain for something I knew was on the table yesterday, and later spotted it exactly where I had been looking earlier. I recall it every time I put a second ‘9’ on a sudoku line, not seeing the one already there.

I pop another omega-3 capsule and vow to increase the number of weekly ‘days off’ from the wine and the whisky. It’s frightening enough to accept the gradual erosion of physical abilities without facing the prospect of, day by day, losing one’s self.

As those days fly past ever faster.


What memory tips and tricks work for you?

34 thoughts on “Memory, as I Get Older

  1. I often put things down and can’t find them only to see them later hiding in plain sight. This isn’t something new for me I have had this since at least my teenage years, face blindness and remembering names is something I also suffer from and have done since I was in my teens. Whether it is my brain preferring to concentrate on its own thoughts rather than what is in front of me I don’t know.
    So in many ways, you are not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I often lose words, unfortunately they always seem to be hiding behind the word ‘microwave’. So I often say that instead. My ever helpful family then leap in with other kitchen appliances such as washing machine or dishwasher to confuse me even more. You gotta love em, or so they tell me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I started blaming everything on ME brain fog, but my adult kids find that hilarious and say I’ve always been like it. Whole sentences can come out as a jumble. My default word seems to be ‘umbrella ‘ which is substituted unconsciously when a word is missing. Then recently, I was waving my umbrella about, and couldn’t think what it was called! 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m horrible at remembering names until I’ve been around the person a while. Voices, as strange as that seems, are my forte’. I can hear a voice in a movie and recognize the actor even though the movie is ancient. I found that worrying about not remembering, often times increased the problem, at least for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I’m better if I can switch off for a bit and think about something else (which isn’t helpful in the middle of a conversation). I’ve forgotten names of people I might have worked with for years in the past… I’m very good at greeting people as old friends without using a name.
      I might also recognise an actor’s voice but I’ll be damned if I can put a name to it 😦
      (Having said that, I’ve sometimes wondered in the past which of my children I’m talking to on the phone as their inflections were so similar. Caller display was a godsentd- although it doesn’t happen now that they’ve moved on into different partnerships and families.)


  5. This blog rings so many bells, my one comfort is that I remember sending off when I was twenty for my big trip air ticket and forgetting to put the cheque in the envelope! It was a joke in our family at Christmas time that my uncle said ‘Have we sent a card to Jean and Brian?’ and my aunt replied ‘You mean Sarah and Alan?’

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I discovered I’d left my handbag at home once we got to Luton, in spite of having been awake all night prepared, and hanging it around my neck. I couldn’t believe it. Everything conspired against us as my son in law’s car was being repaired. A friend of my daughter’s dashed down with it, but they’d closed the gate and wouldn’t let us through. Very annoying. We re booked for the next day and went home, stopping to buy lots of wine on the way.😉

        Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s an interesting blog, Cathy, especially for people like me who have Alzheimer’s running through the family. I am always aware of wondering whether I’ll be next! There was a very informative article about dementia in July’s Reader’s Digest, noting 13 signs to look for. I won’t quote the whole thing – copyright, etc! – but the warning signs are these, apparently.
    1). Your personality changes
    2). You see things that aren’t there
    3). You struggle with vocabulary, ‘losing’ words that are usually on the tip of your tongue.
    4). Your vision is patchy.
    5) You find it difficult to keep focused.
    6). You forget where you’ve put things.
    7). You’re suddenly bad with money.
    8). You’re feeling emotionally flat.
    9). You’re not moving as well as you used to
    10). You’ve become notably insensitive.
    11). You no longer grasp concepts you once did.
    12). You’re more anxious
    13). You get lost. Losing navigational skills and the ability to create a mental map of your environment can be one of the earliest symptoms of dementia.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for those pointers, Hilary.
    I wouldn’t know about 1, and as far as 2 goes, I have the opposite problem – not seeing things that ARE there. But definitely 3 (except I’ve had that for a while now) 6, 9, 12… Perhaps 13 is something I was born with…
    I remember reading once that it’s normal to forget where you put your keys. If you forget what the keys are for, you’re in trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was going to type in a poem I wrote years ago that was published in an unknown journal, but I can’t remember where I put the digital copy, the notebook, or the unknown journal. Oh well. I’m a life-long space cadet according to some of my friends who are long gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. HI Cathy, this is very interesting. I am the opposite, I never forget a face to the extent that people I remember are often embarrassed, and I nearly always remember names unless they are very unusual and are foreign. For example, I struggle to remember Chinese names but I think it’s more to do with not understanding the pronunciation than anything else. Currently, I have a very good memory, I know it is unusually good because I can remember clearly accounting complexities from my working life from years ago and will be able to find the client and the document. I can also remember characters in books that I read years ago. This may change as I get older and I may have to start writing things down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is pretty unusual I imagine Robbie and very useful in your work. My daughter is always amazed at how much I remember of my early childhood – well there is no one left to verify that as I am the eldest of my siblings!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Crumbs – I don’t think I could remember that kind of detail a month after the event; certainly not three ot four jobs later. It must be like having a photographic memory, only for everything (I’m with you on pronunciation. I never could cope with which character was which in Dostoyevsky.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can remember 20 years back. It is rather unusual, I think. I didn’t know it was unusual for quite a long time and I was surprised that other people couldn’t remember jobs from a few months previously, never mind years. I then came to realise that my memory is unusually good. I am lucky … I think!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I think that judging by the comments Cathy you are not alone..My mother was the mistress of the malapropism for as long as I can remember and she was going strong until she was in her early 90s when we hit a bit of a brick wall. But, the other thing we all need to remember is that we are the first generation so actively involved in the outside world via the Internet. Our parents once they gave up work might take up other pastimes but we are still pushing our brains to learn new technology, absorb masses on information and it tends to be 7 days a week.. I have been taking it easier at the weekends, watching movies not online as much and I have noticed that I am much fresher mentally when I start again on Monday. I search around for words more often now and with everyone wearing masks I have been sailing past people who seem to know me.. worrying about it only makes it worse, judging by your stories I have read you are firing on all the cylinders you need to be.. xxx


  11. Thanks for the vote of confidence! It is encouraging though, isn’t it, to hear that we’re not alone in our mental meanderings. Especially when our fellow-sufferers are so clearly firing on all cylinders where it matters 🙂


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