How to Prevent Memory Loss in Old Age | Memory Problems

How to Prevent Memory Loss in Old Age | Memory Problems

Changes in memory are a natural part of the aging process. Around 40% of people experience some form of memory loss after the age of 65. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make to boost your cognitive health and protect your memory as you age.

Poor diet, interrupted sleep, and a lack of exercise can all contribute to memory decline. Staying intellectually, physically, and socially active and eating and sleeping well can all help to prevent memory loss in old age.

Understanding Memory Loss in Old Age

Older adults may have trouble  recalling information, forget appointments, or misplace things more frequently. This is due to changes in the brain and is considered a normal part of the aging process.

However, not all types of memory loss are part of normal aging. Memory issues that make it difficult to complete everyday tasks could be indicative of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early-stage dementia.

Types of Memory: Short-term, Long-term and Working Memory

Memory is more complex than you might think, and there are several different types. Short-term memories involve information you were recently exposed to and are retained for up to 30 seconds.

Long-term memories consist of information taken from the short-term memory store and used to create lasting memories. They can be held for an indefinite period and can last anywhere from an hour to several decades. There are two types of long-term memories, called procedural and declarative memories. Procedural memories are information and activities

procedural and declarative memories. Procedural memories are information and activities we learn through practice and repetition, e.g., riding a bicycle. Declarative memories are information about facts, dates, word definitions, events, and experiences you have lived through.

Working memory is the small amount of information you use to plan and carry out behaviors. Remembering directions until you arrive at a destination or which ingredients you have already added to a cake mix are examples of working memory.

Short-Term Memory Loss in the Elderly

Short-term memory loss causes people to forget things they’ve heard, seen, or done recently. Occasional lapses in short-term memory may be due to age-related forgetfulness, which is considered a normal part of aging. However, frequently struggling to recall recent conversations or events could be a sign of dementia or MCI.

In people with dementia, short-term memory loss is typically progressive, meaning it gets worse with time. In those with MCI, memory loss may stay the same, get worse, or improve. If you or a loved one are worried about short-term memory loss, arrange to discuss your symptoms with a doctor.

Dementia VS Age-related Forgetfulness

Age-related forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. As people get older, they may not remember information as well as they used to. They may also recall information more slowly and sometimes misplace things or forget tasks.

More serious memory problems that affect a person’s day-to-day life could be an early sign of dementia. Possible signs of dementia include:
  • Frequently forgetting recent conversations or events
  • Difficulty conversing
  • Forgetting the names of people or objects
  • Frequently losing or misplacing important items
  • Getting lost in familiar locations
  • Forgetting familiar routes when driving or walking
  • Forgetting appointments and important dates
  • Struggling to keep track of medication
  • Struggling to recognize the faces of close friends and family members 
People with dementia may retain older memories but have difficulty recalling recent events. For example, they may have detailed memories of their wedding day but be unable to remember what they did that morning.

What is Normal Age-related Memory Loss?

Age-associated memory loss is a slight decline in a person’s memory and thinking skills. It is less pronounced than the cognitive impairment seen in people with MCI and dementia.

Normal age-related memory loss does not noticeably disrupt a person’s day-to-day life. You may occasionally misplace your glasses or keys, forget passwords, or rely more on lists to remember tasks or appointments. However, your memory difficulties won’t stop you from learning and remembering new things, and they won’t affect your ability to complete tasks as you normally would. 

Common Signs of Memory Loss in Seniors

Mild forgetfulness is considered a normal part of aging. Signs of normal, age-associated memory loss commonly include:
  • Forgetting the names of acquaintances
  • Occasionally misplacing items around the house
  • Forgetting details of conversations or events that happened a year ago
  • Occasional difficulty finding words
Memory problems that don’t significantly disrupt your daily routine are not usually considered a problem. However, more serious memory impairment that interferes with daily life could be a warning sign of dementia. Signs that it may be time to see a doctor may include
  • Frequently forgetting recent events
  • Repeating questions or statements
  • Frequently forgetting to pay bills
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks like driving, cooking, or using a cell phone
  • Confusion around time or dates
  • Difficulty with balance and judging distance; tripping over or dropping things more often
  • Trouble with following or joining conversations
  • Losing the ability to retrace steps when looking for misplaced items
  • Poor judgment, e.g., falling victim to scams, struggling to manage money, difficulty taking care of pets or managing personal hygiene
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Uncharacteristic mood, personality, and behavioral changes, e.g., paranoia, fearfulness, suspicion, mood swings

How to Improve Memory

Age-related memory loss is often an inevitable part of getting older, and you may not be able to prevent memory loss in old age. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cognitive health and reduce your risk of memory loss.

Regular Physical Exercise

One easy way to boost brain health and improve memory is with regular physical activity. Regular exercise improves many aspects of cognitive health and can upgrade problem-solving skills, sharpen memory, and reduce anxiety and depression. It can also help improve sleep quality, which has its own set of benefits for brain function.

Among older adults, physical exercise has been found to improve cognitive function, learning, and memory performance. Frequent exercise may even help prevent dementia. Aerobic exercise, strength training, and mind-body exercise (like yoga, pilates, and tai chi) are all thought to benefit brain health.

People aged 65 or older are advised to be physically active every day, even if it’s just light exercise. You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or water aerobics, per week. It’s also important to do activities that improve your strength, balance, and flexibility and to avoid sitting or lying down for extended periods.

Balanced Diet and Nutrition

Eating a nutritious diet is very important for maintaining healthy brain function and improving memory. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, flavonoids, and other essential vitamins and minerals are associated with enhanced cognition and memory function. A healthy.
balanced dementia diet may even reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly detrimental to cognitive function in older adults. Fortunately, B12 supplementation was found to significantly improve memory function in 84% of patients. The best foods for brain health include fatty fish, berries, dark, leafy greens, coffee, and walnuts.

Sufficient Sleep and Rest

There is a strong link between disturbed sleep and dementia. This may be because memories are consolidated while we sleep, and broken sleep could disrupt this process and affect memory function. Sleep deprivation has been linked to impaired attention, alertness, judgment, decision-making, and working memory.
Poor-quality sleep is especially prevalent among older people. One study found that people over the age of 60 had 70% less deep sleep than people aged 18 - 25. As memory impairment is specifically linked to disruptions in deep sleep, this may be why seniors are more likely to experience forgetfulness.

Fortunately, getting more restful sleep may help restore memory function in older adults. You may be able to improve sleep quality by avoiding naps, abstaining from alcohol and nicotine, maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine, and exercising daily.

Memory Training Exercises

Cognitive stimulation can help improve short-term memory in older adults. Activities that engage the brain include listening to music, completing puzzles, learning a new language or instrument, meditating, engaging in sports, reading, and playing chess.
For seniors with dementia, cognitive stimulation is particularly important. Other meaningful activities you can do with loved ones include gentle exercise, cooking with family members, and other social activities.

Puzzle Solving for Cognitive Stimulation

Solving puzzles may help improve cognitive function and memory. For example, completing jigsaw puzzles can activate multiple cognitive abilities, including working memory, reasoning, and episodic memory (a type of long-term memory). Regular cognitive stimulation through puzzle-solving may even help reduce your risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

People with dementia may struggle with conventional puzzles and games. Complicated rules and fiddly game pieces can be challenging for people with impaired cognitive and motor functions. In these cases, shop for dementia-friendly puzzles and games that are specifically designed for people with cognitive decline.

Creating a Memory Book

Memory books can help people with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline recall and relive long-term memories. A memory book is a collection of photos, letters, and other items linked to significant events in a person’s life. They may also include written descriptions of the people and places shown in the photos.

Creating a memory book is a meaningful and bonding activity you can do with loved ones who are experiencing cognitive decline. It can help reinforce key memories, evoke positive emotions, and improve the mood of someone living with dementia. If you’d like to create a memory book with a loved one, start by gathering meaningful printouts and other items linked to that person’s past and personality.


Forgetfulness and memory loss are often a normal part of brain aging. Older people may notice they forget appointments or misplace items more frequently. They may also find it more difficult to learn new things than they used to. This is considered a part of normal aging, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the person’s daily life.

In many cases, memory function can be improved by dietary changes, increased physical activity, and better quality sleep. However, more serious memory problems may indicate mild 


Is it normal for a 90-year-old to be forgetful?

Memory loss is very common among older adults, so it’s normal for a 90-year-old to be forgetful. However, dementia is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems that make it hard for a person to maintain their daily routine could be a sign of dementia.

Can memory be improved in old age?

Lifestyle factors like disrupted sleep, poor diet, and substance misuse can contribute to memory loss. Addressing these problems may help improve memory, even in old age. Brain stimulation in the form of puzzles, music, books, and social interaction may also improve cognitive function in older adults.

What are the 3 best foods for memory loss?

A healthy, nutrient-rich diet can boost cognitive health and may help prevent memory loss as you age. Some of the best foods for brain health are green, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and berries.

How to train your memory?

Activities that provide cognitive stimulation can boost brain function and may improve your memory. Completing puzzles, learning a new language, playing sports, reading books, and socializing can all benefit brain health.


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About The Author

Mary Anne Roberto, the co-founder of Always Home Connected is a dedicated CNA and a Certified Positive Approach To Care Consultant (Teepa Snow), specializing in dementia care.  Her goal is to create awareness about those experiencing cognitive changes and to provide caregivers with resources and tools that are necessary to help alleviate some of the challenges caregivers face on a day-to-day basis.