If we’re lucky and live long enough, most of us will experience a level of forgetfulness that is one of the hallmarks (and major annoyances) of old age. It starts slowly — a name, a birthday, your anniversary, your children’s names … Alzheimer’s Anxiety Syndrome follows. Pretty soon we see those Missing Elderly signs on the highway and wonder if that could soon be us.
Then our children start asking whether GPS implants are covered by Medicare.
Lessons for remembering started early in our lives, particularly if we had parents who insisted on it. If you left the needed textbook in your school locker — well, better start hoofing it back to school. Forgot your lunch money? Then hope you had good friends who’d share their lunch with you. If we were lucky, the lessons were well-taught and well-learned, and served us throughout our lives. Many of us have been quite proud of our good memories.
Forgetfulness in old age feels like failure, and at some level perhaps even dangerous. It’s scary. The age of forgetfulness can be disconcerting. But maybe we could learn to enjoy the ride and the little joke that the universe is playing on us. Besides, there really isn’t much we can do about it (other than perhaps working crossword puzzles or studying quantum mechanics).
To diminish stress and improve enjoyment in our later years, perhaps we can learn to accept how things are. Some things we old farts might consider doing:
- Simplify your life. Do one thing at a time and do it slowly. Leave plenty of time to forget and re-remember. It’s easier to remember what you’re doing when it’s only one thing.
- Get stuck in your ways. Of course, the youngsters think this is a bad thing. It’s not. You don’t forget what you’re stuck in. There are fewer decisions to be made and fewer things to forget.
- Resign as general manager of the universe. This is a highly recommended but often overlooked alternative. Many of us have spent a good deal of our lives being in-charge. Remember, there was a time when we moved from being not-in-charge to being in-charge. Our elders are probably still laughing at us because they learned some time ago how freeing it was to let go of control.
- Replace control with influence. Influence comes from taking an elder’s approach to things. And don’t be afraid to be a manipulative old fart. That and grumpiness are some of the rewards for still being around.
- Forget what you forgot. If you do forget something, then the attitude should be that you really didn’t need it. Re-evaluate. Give in to the force.
- Engage in selective and purposeful memory loss. People will forgive old farts even if they do roll their eyes. It’s kind of fun.
- Tell your old stories and jokes over and over again. When we were younger we only re-told our stories and jokes to new acquaintances. Forgetfulness means an ever-growing cadre of new acquaintances. We like those stories and jokes. Why shouldn’t we enjoy telling them to our heart’s desire?
There are many rewards to be garnered from old age forgetfulness. Perhaps most importantly, memory loss allows us to focus on the here and now — and on the way things are as opposed to the way they should be. It’s the youngsters who should focus on the way things should be — with appropriate guidance from their elders of course.
I knew there was something else I wanted to add to this, but I’ve forgotten it.