Memory and Social Interaction

If you can’t remember where you put your keys….find them and then go meet friends for dinner!

Strong social ties, through friends and community groups, can preserve our brain health as we age while social isolation is an important risk factor for cognitive decline in those age 50 and over.

Socializing with people is a form of exercise that requires attention, effort and alertness, all of which are important aspects of memory. Of course, socializing is also an important feature of preventing or reducing depression.

Information is stored in different parts of memory. Information stored in short-term memory may include the name of a person you met today while information stored in your remote or long-term memory includes things stored years ago, such as memories of childhood.

When you’re in your 20s, you begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make less of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. The older you are, the more these changes can affect your memory.A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget names, you’re probably okay. But you may have a more serious problem if you have trouble remembering how to do things you’ve done many times before, getting to a place you’ve been to often, or doing things that requires steps. Certain medications, stress-related activities, injuries and other factors may also cause memory loss.

Aging may affect memory by  not only changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information.

Another difference between normal memory problems and dementia (a more serious type of memory loss) is that normal memory loss doesn’t get much worse over time. Dementia may get much worse over several months to several years.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health used data gathered from six years of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a large, nationally representative population of American adults ages 50 and older. Participants took memory tests at two-year intervals during the study period. Testers read a list of 10 common nouns to survey respondents, who were then asked to recall as many words as possible immediately and again after a five-minute delay. The researchers also measured social integration and engagement in activities with others.

The results showed that individuals who in their 50s and 60s who engage in a lot of social activity also had the slowest rate of memory decline. In fact, compared to those who were the least socially active, study subjects who had the highest social integration scores had less than half the rate of memory loss.

“The working hypothesis is that social engagement is what makes you mentally engaged,” said Lisa F. Berkman, the study’s senior author and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. “You can’t sit and withdraw if you’re constantly talking and engaging with others. It’s not just completing a crossword puzzle, it’s living your life.”

One of the most difficult challenges for mature adults is maintaining or finding relationships with people from their generation who share their interests, experiences and hobbies.  Whether you are retired or not, there are many things you can do to prevent  loneliness and make connections with others.  It can be as easy as joining a group with interests that match your own.  This social interaction is essential to healthy brain health.

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” –  James Matthew Barrie

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2 Comments

  1. bedSmeree said,

    May 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net


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