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Normal aging vs dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are not a part of normal aging.

Almost 40 per cent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss. When there is no underlying medical condition causing this memory loss, it is known as "age-associated memory impairment," which is considered a part of the normal aging process.

Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are different.

Age-associated memory impairment and dementia can be told apart in a number of ways. Below are some examples.

Note: this is not a diagnostic tool.

Normal Aging 

Dementia 

Not being able to remember details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago  Not being able to recall details of recent events or conversations 
Not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance  Not recognizing or knowing the names of family members
Forgetting things and events occasionally  Forgetting things or events more frequently 
Occasionally have difficulty finding words  Frequent pauses and substitutions when finding words 
You are worried about your memory but your relatives are not Your relatives are worried about your memory, but you are not aware of any problems

If you are worried about your memory, talk to your family doctor.

Tips for coping with normal age-related memory difficulties:

  • Keep a routine
  • Organize information (keep details in a calendar or day planner)
  • Put items in the same spot (always put your keys in the same place by the door)
  • Repeat information (repeat names when you meet people)
  • Run through the alphabet in your head to help you remember a word
  • Make associations (relate new information to things you already know)
  • Involve your senses (if you are a visual learner, visualize an item)
  • Teach others or tell them stories
  • Get a full night's sleep
  • Learn more about what you can do to maintain your brain health and strengthen your memory

It’s important to know when to see your doctor about memory concerns but it’s equally important to know that forgetting someone's name doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting dementia. Watch the video I have trouble remembering things - am I getting dementia?

The material was created by TCD, through the NEIL Programme at the Institute of Neuroscience with support from GENIO.
© 2014 The Provost, Fellows, Foundations Scholars, and the Other Members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity Of Queen Elizabeth, near Dublin. Permission to use this material was granted by TCD which reserves all rights in the material.


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Last Updated: 10/03/14
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