Discussion Thread: Cognitive Changes

As we age, we go through various memory and cognitive changes. The thought of changes in memory and cognitive abilities may seem off-putting at first, but this is a normal part of aging.  Most of these changes are normal, although there are some abnormal changes as well. Healthy habits can help preserve and improve memory and cognitive abilities, helping to ensure normal changes.

Whether memory changes affect daily functioning is how to separate normal from abnormal memory aging (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). Different diseases, such as dementia, and other factors such as severe depression and traumatic brain injuries, can impair memory and daily functioning, known as abnormal memory aging (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). Normal memory aging does not affect daily functioning as abnormal aging.

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There is evidence that working memory, an umbrella term for many short-term holding and computational processes relating to a vast range of cognitive skills and knowledge demands, declines as we age, although the extent of the working memory decline is in doubt (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). However, just like training a muscle, memory can be trained to remain fit. For example, by repeating something over and over, known as rehearsal, we are able to keep the information in working memory (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019).

There are also various memory aids used to improve memory. Eternal aids, memory aids that rely on environmental resources such as notebooks, and internal aids, memory aids that rely on mental processes such as imagery, can be used to improve both explicit and implicit memory (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). Learning new skills, exercise, and avoiding the application of memory stereotypes are also factors that improve and preserve memory as we age (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019).

Much like memory, cognitive ability is preserved and/or improved as we age by repetition or acquiring knowledge through life experience and education, known as crystallized intelligence (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). Crystallized intelligence does not normally decline with age, but rather increases until late in life (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). This is why older people are considered wise, not because of their age, but because their crystallized intelligence has made them experts over time through education and life experience over many years (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019).

This is also supported in Scripture, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Job 12:12). Also, the book of Proverbs says, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Proverbs 20:29). This is because gray hair is like a crown of glory gained from living a righteous life (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Proverbs 16:31). Therefore, do not be afraid of aging. Keep your memory sharp, learn new skills, and share your wisdom with the world.

References

Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2019). Adult development and aging. Cengage Learning.

English Standard Version Bible. (2001). ESV Online. https://esv.literalword.com/

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