Some Differences Between Age Related Memory Loss and Dementia

Caregiving For All:  March 21, 2023, Del Larson, Certified Lay Minister 

If you are experiencing difficulties with memory, know that they may not be signs of dementia. It could be memory loss as a part of normal aging.

Please note that the information on this page should not be used as a diagnostic tool, and is not a substitute for informed medical advice. If you are concerned that you or someone you know has dementia, please talk to your doctor.

What is aging?

Aging is a natural process for us. We will experience gradual changes to our brains and bodies. Some affect our physical and mental abilities and may increase our risk of disease. Each of us ages differently.  The changes vary from person to person.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each person should have the ability to live a long and healthy life.

What affects how I age?

Besides genetic factors, how we age depends on our lifestyles and environments. Generally, we can support healthy aging by challenging our brains, eating healthily, and being physically and socially active, among other lifestyle choices. While these choices do not guarantee a long, healthy life free of disease, they are our best options for decreasing the risk of disease and ensuring our well-being as we age.

Will my memory get worse as I age?    As we grow older, it is natural to feel concerned about changes in our mental abilities. We want to carry out our daily routines, be self-sufficient and relive the most treasured moments of our lives without having to worry about our memory and dementia.

Most of us will experience no problems with memory.  Most of us will continue to have strong memories as we age. Our ability to remember will not decline rapidly or substantively. In old age, we will retain the skills and knowledge learned throughout our lives.

Some of us will experience memory loss.  Almost 40% of us will experience some form of memory loss after we turn 65 years old. But even if we experience memory loss, chances are still unlikely that we have dementia. For the most part, our memory loss is mild enough that we can still live our day-to-day lives without interruption.

A smaller percentage of us will have dementia.  The WHO estimates that after we turn 60 years old, 5 to 8% of us will live with dementia at some point. With dementia, symptoms including memory loss gradually worsen to the point where our abilities seriously deteriorate and we are no longer able to take care of ourselves. There are different levels of memory loss and not all memory loss is due to dementia. So how can you tell which is which?

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