We often believe that age affects memory. The older we get, the more forgetful we become. However, many young people today have difficulty remembering important things like addresses, birthdays, and their homework. Our memory goes through three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding refers to the process where information is learned while storage and retrieval refer to how long encoded information is retained and what is the ease of access to information. Additionally, there are different types of memory including sensory, short-term, and long-term. In these three different types of memory, the three processes occur differently and vary from person to person. Through this article, we will discover whether it is true age affects memory!
Sensory memory refers to the remembrance of intangible or tangible objects through the five senses – smell, touch, taste, hear, and sight. The retention of information only lasts for a brief moment. It is similar to a person flashing picture cards in front of you; for a brief moment, you can recall them. Sensory memory is the ability to process and recall what you experienced – like learning someone’s name or recalling a familiar scent. The brain receives signals from sensory signals (from the five senses) and only retains the parts we want to remember. Sensory memory is the stepping stone to long-term and short-term memory. Our sensory memory tends to decline over time; the time taken for sensory signals to be processed slows down. The brain will take more time to compute and process information, causing cognitive abilities to decline in older people.
When we cannot recall something, it is often believed that we have short-term memory. However, short-term memory refers to the ability to retain a small amount of information that is accessible in a short time. The information decays quickly after 20 to 30 seconds of learning and it decays faster as we age unless active maintenance strategies are used to recall new information. Information stored in our short-term memory is easily disrupted or replaced by new information, displacing the older information, this is also known as short-term memory loss. Older people tend to experience short-term memory loss more frequently than younger people. This is due to the declining growth of hormones and proteins that repair brain cells and the poorer blood circulation to the brain.
Long-term memory is the bigger capacity to store information over a longer period. When we continuously access memories and information, it strengthens the neural networks that encode the information allowing an easier recollection of materials. Long-term memory can be called working memory where the information learned previously can be used when necessary. Often, these memories can be built on each other – just like learning basic mathematics like plus and minus which will eventually be used in algebra. Surprisingly, age does not affect long-term memory as much as the other types of memory. Older people tend to be able to recall the days of their youth.
It is often true that as we age, our memory capacity decreases. However, age is not the only factor! Living an active lifestyle with physical activities, social interactions, and mental stimulation activities can make it possible to have memory sharp as a youth. Being active becomes easy when there are great amenities in their living community.