Why are older people always forgetful

Old age forgetfulness

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Many people lose their memory in old age. Old age forgetfulness can be clearly distinguished from dementia. Which symptoms are typical? And what treatment options are there?

What is old age forgetfulness?
Memory works worse in old age: Most older people find it harder to remember newly learned information and (especially unimportant) facts and details of events. Because this memory loss Part of the natural aging process it is also referred to as old age forgetfulness.

All organs age, including the brain: in certain parts of the brain to die in old age more and more nerve cells. Since the brain hardly produces any new cells in adulthood, the affected areas shrink and thus lose their performance. The networking of the brain also deteriorates, so that communication between different brain regions no longer works so well.

All of this leads to mental impairments, which can be expressed through various everyday problems. Often old age forgetfulness is noticeable in those affected by the fact that they Relocate objects and upcoming dates or Forgot details of recent events. Those affected can no longer process information as quickly as they used to.

These problems can also be the first signs of dementia. Compared to dementia the age-related memory loss progresses however, if at all go slowly

The mental impairments that can occur as part of the normal aging process are also much less pronounced than the symptoms of dementia. Therefore one calls the Old age forgetfulness too as a mild cognitive disorder or with the English technical term mild cognitive impairment, MCI for short.

About 10 to 15 out of 100 people over 65 are of it affected. For many of them, the forgetfulness of old age turns into dementia within a few years.

Old age forgetfulness: causes

In older adulthood, many changes take place in the brain that can impair mental performance. Amongst other things the brain gets smallerbecause more and more Nerve cells die. In particular, the hippocampus, a brain region that is responsible for storing new information, shrinks.

At the same time, some of the nerve fibers that connect different areas of the brain with each other disappear. As a result, the transfer of information between the brain regions no longer works so well.

These and others age-related processes of decay in the brain are considered to be the most important causes of old age forgetfulness. They also explain why older people often have difficulty concentrating and generally thinking more slowly because they need more time to process new information.

Note: Dementia is also caused by the death of nerve cells. However, this decay process takes place much faster with dementia than with non-pathological forgetfulness of old age. However, the latter often turns into dementia.

How early the mental decline begins and how quickly it progresses depends on various factors. Studies suggest that certain Risk factors age-related memory disorders and dementia. These include

Forgetfulness in old age can also occur as a result of certain diseases. These include, for example, brain tumors or bleeding as well as infectious diseases that spread to the brain (e.g. neuroborreliosis, TBE). Mental illnesses such as depression or neuroses can also be causes for the symptoms of old age forgetfulness.

Old age forgetfulness: symptoms

The symptoms of old-age forgetfulness make themselves felt not suddenly noticeable, rather creeping: The memory decreases over a longer period of time. Those affected often notice this by the fact that they Relocate objects and Forgot informationthat you have received in the recent past (e.g. appointments, names, telephone numbers).

Older people also sometimes think a little more slowly because their brains take longer to process information. For example, this can lead to people trying to avoid stressful situations in which several tasks have to be completed at the same time.

The Empirical knowledge, the vocabulary and the Language ability are against it Not from the forgetfulness of old age affected.

Normal old age forgetfulness or dementia symptoms?

In contrast to dementia age forgetfulness does not progress or hardly away. So if the symptoms do not worsen, or worsen very slowly, there is usually nothing to worry about. Older people can often cope with the demands of their everyday lives for many years to come despite their slight mental weakness.

Worsen the mental abilities very strong within a short time, this is often one Signs that the forgetfulness of old age in a dementia transforms. In addition, there are other warning signals that are atypical for normal old age forgetfulness and rather point to dementia:

  • Forgetting important memory contents: People with dementia miss not only insignificant details of events or trivial facts, but also events or information that are of great importance to them.
  • pronounced Disorientation: People suffering from dementia often have great difficulty orienting themselves in their familiar surroundings. It is also typical that they forget the current day of the week or even the month or year.
  • Drive malfunctions (e.g. a feeling of being driven, later more apathy)
  • Difficulty finding words (Problems naming certain items)
  • changed personality: People with dementia sometimes become anxious, irritable, aggressive, and / or depressed.
  • decreased appetite and disturbed feeling of thirst

Old age forgetfulness: diagnosis

If an elderly patient complains of memory problems, the doctor will first determine whether this is due to normal old age forgetfulness or dementia. To do this, he can use various standardized memory tests, for example the Mini Mental Status Test (MMST) or the Watch test.

The doctor can then use the patient's brain imaging procedures investigate to find the organic causes of forgetfulness. For example, CT or MRI images show whether and in which areas the brain has shrunk or whether a tumor has formed somewhere in the brain.

In addition, the doctor can use the so-called Positron emission tomography determine if it is in the patient's brain Deposits have accumulated that typical of dementia are.

If the doctor suspects that certain physical illnesses or deficiency symptoms have caused the memory disorders, he can also have a blood count made and check the patient's electrolyte balance, inflammation values, liver values, kidney values, thyroid hormones and blood sugar level.

Old age forgetfulness: treatment

There are no medicines that are effective against old age forgetfulness. However, the doctor can suggest psychotherapy in which the patient can be Memory trains and learn better in everyday life with his mental impairments to get by. Also physical Move can make those affected mentally more productive again.

If the examination reveals that the patient already suffered from dementia the doctor can prescribe so-called antidementia drugs. These are Medication with agents that may slow the progression of the disease a little. These active ingredients include

  • Memantine as well
  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

Age forgetfulness: course

At about 30 to 50 out of 100 people get worse the forgetfulness of old age Notor hardly. That means: you forget something every now and then and / or you don't think as quickly as you used to, but you otherwise remain mentally fit.

At about 50 to 70 out of 100 people affected the mildly mentally impaired develop within three to four years to a dementia.

Important: Sometimes to be ashamed People with age-related impaired memory for their impairment and drag on always on back from their social environment. Thereby the problem worsens however mostly. It is therefore important to notice the first signs of old age forgetfulness in good time and to have them clarified by a doctor. The earlier it is recognized, the sooner the person affected can learn to cope with it.

Many specialists (neurologists, psychiatrists, specialized family doctors) have so-called in their practice Memory consultations by. Addresses of doctors and clinics that offer memory consultations can be found, for example, on the website of the self-help organization German Alzheimer's Society.

Old age forgetfulness: prevention

The most important risk factors for mental impairment in old age are diabetes mellitus, increased blood lipids, obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. These diseases and risk factors can often be managed well through a healthier lifestyle alone. That means: Anyone who is at a young age and as an adult healthy and moderate nourishes and Exercise regularly, has a good chance of staying physically and mentally healthy into old age.

Which sports and forms of nutrition are particularly beneficial for the brain has not yet been conclusively clarified. Studies suggest that the so-called Mediterranean food possibly protects against dementia. The Mediterranean diet is mostly exposed Vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish together.

Research has also shown that people who live up to old age looking for intellectual challenges and a active social life cultivate, are less prone to mental degradation.

ICD-10 Diagnostic Key:

Here you can find the appropriate ICD-10 code for "Old age forgetfulness (mild cognitive disorder)":

Onmeda reading tips:


Online information from the Pschyrembel: www.pschyrembel.de (accessed: October 2, 2018)

What is mild cognitive impairment? Online information from the National Institute on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.nia.nih.gov (as of May 17, 2017)

Guideline of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology e.V. (DGPPN) and the German Society for Neurology (DGN): Dementia. AWMF guidelines register No. 038-013 (status: 24.1.2016)

Last content check:02.10.2018
Last change: 02.10.2018