Exploring Memories

Vol. 22  No. 1  Spring, 1998

Story by Mary K. Miller,
Photos by Amy Snyder

Have you ever found yourself running late, desperately looking for misplaced car keys? Did you ever stride purposefully into a room, only to forget why you're there? Maybe you've even wondered whether misplacing your glasses or forgetting where you parked the car meant something more serious —you may have worried about getting senile or showing the first stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Relax. According to experts, these relatively minor memory lapses are perfectly normal. People with Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder that affects 10 percent of the population over age sixty-five, have very serious memory deficits, such as forgetting their children's names or getting lost on the street where they live. For the rest of us, our brains will just show the routine signs of aging, in much the same way that our bodies will develop wrinkles and achy joints.

On the whole, mental capacity is fairly stable during the adult years, though a slow drop in reaction time does occur. The first noticable decline happens when people reach their sixties. Still, there are things we can do to keep our minds agile and our memories alive. In this article, we'll look at the lifestyles and techniques used by an inspirational group of seniors dedicated to exercising their minds. Along the way, we'll also explore the science of memory and aging with Art Shimamura, a professor and memory expert at the University of California at Berkeley.


 "Young in Mind"


Try This!

Droodles Cartoon

What are these pictures? They're Droodles --a riddle and a doodle in one, and you can use them to test your memory! Click here to find out how.

From 1977 until 2003, the Exploratorium published a quarterly magazine. The Exploratorium Magazine Online is a companion to selected issues of the print magazine, providing key articles and activities and including multimedia features.

For additional articles, exhibits, and webcasts, visit the Memory exhibition online.

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