22 Jun 2012

Senior Moments

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T he other day, while with a friend, I ran into an acquaintance I haven’t seen in awhile. Common courtesy dictated that I do introductions – all good except I drew a total blank on the acquaintance’s name! Arggh!. Luckily these two friendly ladies went ahead and introduced themselves (“oh of course, that’s her name!!!) and I was spared the embarrassment. I did admit my mental lapse to my friend later and she laughed it off and said I just had a” senior moment”.

Whoa! I thought I was a few years away from that! Okay, sometimes, I put the milk jug in the cupboard instead of the fridge, or forget whether I have fed the dog or not (he really doesn’t mind if I feed him twice by mistake) and, yes, once I drove off with my coffee on the top of the car (I did get a not so “friendly” reminder that it was there when I opened the sunroof and got a latte shower!). I just attributed these situations to a brain full of too many “to dos”, complicated kid’s schedules and shopping lists. However, her comment made me reflect on the term “senior moment”.

How must that feel to be forgetting those little things more and more (and not having a busy schedule to blame). It must be frightening and frustrating – and not just to the senior but to their family members as well. How do you know if it is just “normal” forgetfulness or something more sinister?

Normal forgetfulness is said to increase as we age and can include temporarily forgetting someone’s name or where we placed an item and the occasional difficulty finding the right word. Signs of more serious memory issues, such as dementia or Alzheimers do include forgetfulness but on a more consistent basis and such forgetfulness likely interferes with daily functioning. Other signs include perception issues (not recognizing familiar faces or places), language difficulties (words are frequently forgotten, misused, or garbled) and mood swings or personality changes. I’ve heard Alzheimers described as not forgetting where the keys are, but forgetting what keys are for.

Seniors Month - Ontario - June -2012Studies show we can improve our memory with more sleep, exercise, good nutrition and socialization. However, for some seniors most of these can be difficult. One tends to sleep less as we age, exercise may be difficult for seniors with physical limitations and others may lack motivation to eat well because they are eating alone (also apparently appetite decreases as we age – this, I actually look forward to). Furthermore, many seniors are socially isolated.

My mother is still as sharp as a tack but does tend to repeat herself in our twice-weekly telephone conversations. I worried that it was because she has forgotten she has told me the story. But now I think it is more than that – she doesn’t have much happening in her life and so is just looking for something to say to contribute to the conversation.

My father (who sadly is no longer with us) liked to tell the same stories from his past over and over. It got to be a bit of a joke in our family and we sometimes would finish the story for him. I now realize he didn’t repeat them because he forgot we heard them already, but because in the story telling he got to re-live an exciting moment.

So maybe our younger “senior moments” aren’t a sign of things to come – maybe they are a reminder to us to forget the small things and slow down. And for the seniors in our lives, maybe we should forgive their “senior moments” and just listen and enjoy their presence. I’d give anything to hear my Dad tell those same old stories again!

Let’s reshape the term “senior moments” to not being about forgetfulness, but about remembering our seniors: In Ontario, June is “Senior’s Month”. Lets celebrate this by ensuring we give this important sector of our society the appreciation and respect they deserve.

On that note I will share with you my favourite lines from a John Prine song called “Hello In There”

You know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder every day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello.”

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass them by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello

I’m going to go and call my Mom now – and this time I will smile and just listen when she tells me (again) about her week.

I invite you to share your stories or comments about your favourite moments with the seniors in your life.

 

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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