What Changes and What Doesnít, As We Age


       Thinking and processing speed refers to how quickly a person can perform a thinking task. With age, it may take more time to complete thinking tasks, but accuracy does not necessarily change.


       New problem solving refers to performing new and challenging, but unfamiliar, tasks. This ability tends to decrease somewhat with age. We are still able to learn new things, it just takes a little longer to master these skills.


       Our ability to focus and sustain attention decreases with age. In particular, people often notice that as they get older, their ability to filter out irrelevant information decreases. As well, it becomes harder to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. As an example, try to recite the months of the year aloud while adding up numbers by 3s in your head. This becomes more difficult with age. This change in oneís ability to focus might be due in part to physiological changes with vision and hearing. Also medication sometimes plays a role in affecting our attention span.


       Our ability to remember what happened minutes, hours or days ago also harder as we get older.Age differences are larger when there are no cues (recall). Age differences are not as noticeable when there are hints given (recognition).


       Prospective memory refers to the ability to remember to do something in the future.For example, remembering that you have a doctorís appointment at 2pm next Wednesday.This type of memory gets worse with age if no reminders are used. Calendars are helpful. If reminders are used, there is little or no age differences in prospective memory.


But donít despair! Itís not all about loss!


       Knowledge refers to the accumulation of facts and experience over a lifetime.Knowledge usually remains that same or increases after age 65.


       Sustained Attention refers to the ability to pay attention to one thing for a long time. For example, sitting and listening to a lecture for 2 hours is example of good sustained attention. There is no change in sustained attention with age.


       Remote memory refers to the ability to remember things that happened many years ago.This ability does not change much with age. For example, can you think of the name of your best friend when you were a little child? What was the name of the street you grew up on? Bet you remember those things, donít you?







Return to menu