‘Senior moments,’ it seems, start a lot earlier than we think

I wanted to tell you something about my declining ….. my memory.  But I forget.  Let me check my notes.

A new study in  The British Medical Journal  says our brain starts to head downhill at age 45 or so and accelerates from there.

“Unsurprisingly, the researchers found mental decline gathered pace with age,” notes The Telegraph in Great Britain.  This decline is in what’s known as cognitive function, and includes memory, reasoning and comprehension skills, the paper notes.

I am, shall we say, a wee bit past 45. Make that seventeen years actually. And while I may simply be too unreasonable to recognize my declining reason, I didn’t need a study to tip me off about my lapses of memory.

Listen up:

“Hi Jerry.”

“Hi. Wait, I know you?  What year did you graduate again?”

“I was in your feature writing class last spring.”


Sadly, this is a true story. As Rick Perry would say, “oops.” Maybe he’s suffering from some of these cognitive function problems and is not really dumb as a post after all? But who am I to judge others?

“Hi, Jerry.”

“Wait, I know you were in my beat reporting class last spring. You grew up in Portland and  you run marathons.  Now what was your name again?”

Names to me can be, quite frankly, befuddling.  And not only of former students.  Just stop by for the average breakfast table conversation in my house.

Kathy: “There’s a new movie out with what’s his name in it.”

Me: “Who is what’s his name?”

Kathy: “You know, the actor in the movie in which his job was firing people, ‘Up In the Air’ or something like that.

Me: “Oh, right, what’s his name. Is it any good?”  (There’s a certain virtue to 40 years of marriage.  I absolutely knew that Kathy was talking about George Clooney though neither of us could pull out his name.)

OK, I’m exaggerating here … a little.  But cognitive recall – especially of names – really did head south for me several years back. And it wasn’t all that good before then.  I can tell you the capital of Delaware (Dover), add a column of numbers in a flash (without a calculator),  name the sixth president of the United States (John Quincy Adams) and tell you the name of my first grade teacher (Miss Miera).  But please, don’t ask me to name the NPR social media guy who tweets 500 times a day and spoke to our students early last month.

I can’t remember.

So Kathy and I write lists and make lots of jokes about them.  After hearing today’s news, I can’t say I’m entirely sad to learn such memory lapses are not entirely “senior moments.”

Welcome to the club.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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