4 Types of Normal Memory Lapses and Why You Needn't Worry About Them

Boiling water spilling over a pot on a stove
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Is your forgetfulness a sign of something serious? Brain freezes happen to most of us, to different degrees, as we age. Even experienced public speakers have their "oops" moments, when a word they use on a daily basis simply refuses to come to mind.

While common memory lapses are frustrating, they don't necessarily mean you're losing your marbles. Here are four types of normal memory lapses that you can cross off your “worry” list.

1. Absentmindedness

Where in the world did you leave your keys? Or why the heck did you walk into the living room anyway? Both of these very common lapses usually stem from lack of attention or focus. It's perfectly normal to forget directions to somewhere you haven't visited in a while.

2. Fading away

The brain is always sweeping out older memories to make room for new ones. While it is typically easy to remember what you did over the past several hours, recalling the same events a month, or a year, later is considerably more difficult. This basic "use-it-or-lose-it" feature of memory known as transience is normal at all ages.

3. Struggling for retrieval

You were just introduced to someone, and seconds later, you can't remember her name. Or you saw a great film, but by the next day, you've completely forgotten the title. Aging changes the strengths of the connections between neurons in the brain. New information can bump out other items from short-term memory unless it is repeated again and again.

4. Muddled multitasking

Maybe you can't watch the news and talk on the phone at the same time anymore. Studies show that, the older we get, the more the brain has to exert effort to maintain focus. Plus, it takes longer to get back to an original task after an interruption.

Take a brain health assessment, play games, discover new recipes and more with AARP’s Staying Sharp.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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