Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today

6 Types of Normal Memory Lapses

How to minimize those senior moments

5. Retrieval

You were just introduced to someone, and seconds later, you can't remember her name. Or you saw a great film, but when you tell a friend about it 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.

Memory tip: This type of short-term memory loss usually can be avoided by focusing in any given moment and eliminating distractions. "Short-term memory is of limited capacity to begin with, so being focused is crucial," says NIH's Babcock. Consciously rehearsing or forming a mental picture of a person's name or key facts about an experience, such as the movie you just saw, also helps lodge information in memory.

6. Muddled multitasking

Call it demitasking, when the number of things you can do effectively at one time diminishes. Maybe you can't watch the news and talk on the phone at the same time anymore. Not such a bad thing, really.

Studies show that, the older we get, the more the brain has to exert effort to maintain focus. Further, it takes longer to get back to an original task after an interruption.

Memory tip: Avoid interruptions and concentrate on one task at a time. And according to a 2009 Stanford University study, this advice holds true at any age because most multitaskers aren't truly focused. "People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time," the researchers concluded.

Mary A. Fischer is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor to AARP The Magazine.

You May Also Like

Remember to go to the AARP home page every day for tips on keeping healthy and sharp, and great deals

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Video Extra

IS YOUR MEMORY A LITTLE STICKY? It's a funny thing in this video short.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points