As you watch, day after day, the instances and accumulated effects of memory loss in the life of someone you love, you may well wonder whether such a thing could happen to you. "How come I keep forgetting the name of my new next-door-neighbor?" "If I don't make a list of the three things I want at the store, I often forget one of them -- am I losing my mind?" "Is there any way to keep my memory working?"
Most of us, as we grow older, experience the phenomenon of memory loss more often than we did when we were young. And we worry about it more than we used to. When a person of 30 or 35 forgets a name, a face, or the item on a grocery list, he's likely to say to himself, "Oh, well, it'll come back to me in a minute," while the person of 65 or older will wonder, "Am I losing my memory?"
The fact is, fewer than 10 percent of the older people in the United States suffer the catastrophic memory loss of Alzheimer's disease. All of us, however, experience a slowing-down in our mental processes, because the speed with which the aging nervous system is able to handle information decreases as one ages. Mild memory lapses are normal in many people at age 50. By age 60 we might experience slight changes in spatial perception and attention. When people are 70 years old, small changes in abstract thinking and language are considered normal. The deceleration may account for the differences in learning,