Myths About Aging – Memory

In this and several other articles, we’ll be discussing the myths, lies and truths about the aging process. It is my intention that you become conscious of what the beliefs are behind your fears. I know it will change your life and give you incredible peace of mind. So, let’s begin.

How do you view old age and the process of aging? What is OLD for you? Are you Old? Or is old something- anything beyond where you are at the present moment? We don’t like to identify ourselves as old because the view that we hold of aging is not a good one. We automatically see the aging process as the process of becoming feeble, less aware or less mentally alert; we see a greater need for dependence on others. We fear being unable to take care of ourselves. And, yes, in many cases we fear illness, loneliness, isolation and ultimately the fear of death.

However, researchers are discovering that these beliefs are simply myths, which then become self-fulfilling prophecies. Fortunately, there is a new view of aging, which recognizes the abilities and potential of the elderly individual and debunks the misconceptions of the aging process.

Myths about Senility and Personality Change

One of the common misunderstandings about the aging process is that it inevitably leads to senility. Memory loss, intellectual decline, and confusion are not normal parts of the aging process. Researchers have clearly demonstrated that while there is some decline in memory and sometimes in intellectual function, the changes are inconsequential for those who remain physically and emotionally healthy. The truth is that the accumulated knowledge alone helps one to make better judgments and solve problems more easily when one keeps active and healthy while aging.

The key factors in maintaining or improving mental capacities in later life are social involvement and flexibility. That means, that you can retain mental capacity by staying actively involved in family and society and by staying open to change and new experiences. Other research implies that emotional well being may be as influential on the aging mind as mental activity. I’ve been visiting a woman who is 104 and she’s a perfect example of someone who finds life satisfying. She tells me all the time, and I can clearly see how content she is with her life which keeps her from negative emotions like anger, depression and anxiety. I have seen the opposite in people much younger who are continually fighting “what is” and longing for things to be the way they used to. But, both studies and spiritual teaching tell us that the key to consciousness is acceptance of whatever is. It appears that the key to mental and emotional well being is the same.

One of the strongest beliefs about old age is that it causes dementia. Dementia is the result of disease, not aging. Scientists who have studied the brain assure us that the mind’s accumulation of knowledge remains intact, though it can at times be harder to tap into during old age. Neuroscientists have found that it is primarily the brain’s “hardware” — the billions of connections and relay switches that act as processing equipment — that is vulnerable to wearing out with age. Meanwhile, the brain’s “software” — the actual information that fills up the mind over a lifetime — does not deteriorate and continues to grow more sophisticated with each passing year. When you run new software on an old computer, it takes more time and often causes problems. The same is true of the human brain – speed and accuracy may be effected later in life as well.

While at times, everyone experiences some memory lapse, we do not have to suffer memory loss as we age.


One of the most famous studies about MEMORY loss was done by Ellen Langer and Harvard colleague Rebecca Levy, Ph.D., They have shown that ecoming forgetful in old age is not inevitable. At least part of the reason our memory gets worse is that we expect it to.

To test this idea, the two psychologists conducted research on memory and attitude towards aging in two groups: Americans who are deaf and people from mainland China. These groups are less likely than most Americans to have been exposed to negative cultural stereotypes of aging.

Using standard psychological measurements of memory, the researchers tested both groups and compared them to a group of elderly mainstream Americans. In addition, the researchers compared memory retention in the elderly with younger people in all three groups.

Not only did the mainland Chinese and American deaf far outperform the mainstream Americans on four psychological memory tests, but the oldest in these two groups, especially the Chinese, performed almost as well as the youngest. The strength of their performance even surprised the researchers. They concluded that the results can be explained entirely by the fact that the Chinese have the most positive, active, and “internal” image of aging across the three cultures studied.

What is particularly striking about the Langer-Levy study is that it meticulously tracks how our fears, which are so culturally constructed, become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Our fear of memory loss can create actual memory decline. You may want to pause this video and journal about this. What have your beliefs been about memory loss? Have you believed it was inevitable, or maybe even hereditary? Let this study guide you to a new way of thinking and help to release some of your fears.

And so, I would like to offer a support system to help you get clear and stay on track as you learn to age more consciously and let go of the myths and lies that have become part of your beliefs. When you subscribe to my free newsletter, you’ll receive instant access to a special report called, “7 Secrets for Reinventing Yourself” as well as a humorous video I’ve created about aging. You’ll then receive numerous other articles that can help you with this process as well. You can subscribe now at

From Dr. Toni LaMotta, Midlife & Conscious Aging Specialist, Best-Selling Author of “What You Really Want, Wants You, International Keynote Speaker


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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
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