The Name Game
I’ve known him for years. He used to play tennis with our group. He lives just a few blocks away. How come I’ve blanked on his name? My God, am I losing it? This is not the first time I’ve run into this terrible memory block. Is this another one of those “senior moments?”
I’m trying every trick I know. I’ve run through the alphabet and the names of mutual acquaintances. I can’t put my finger on it. I’ve also forgotten his wife’s name. How about the names of his children? Fat chance. Maybe he’ll reintroduce himself? I should be so lucky. I’m dead.
“Hey, how’s my old buddy?” I say as he approaches. “You look great.”
“What’s new, Geoff?” he responds, presenting his hand.
“Gee whiz,” I think. “How awkward. He remembered my name.” Still, I don’t have a clue.
We make a little small talk, we promise to get together, and as he walks off I run through the alphabet again… Nothin’.
“Damn,” I curse to myself, “Could this blank-out be normal age-related memory loss or something a lot worse?”
I’m trying all the usual free-association gimmicks. No luck. I throw in the towel. My mind moves on. Then wouldn’t you know it? Ten minutes later I’m driving home, and it hits me, his name, even the names of his family members. “Shoot.” I curse myself. “Wouldn’t you know it?”
If you’re a senior and this is the first time it’s happened to you, don’t freak out. Senior moment or not, you can bet it will probably happen again. The psychiatric community calls it “nominal aphasia.”
Place the Face
My beautiful wife Elayne had a wonderful talent for making new friends and matching names with faces. I, on the other hand, always had trouble. Prior to attending a social event she would run down the list of attendees so I might have no surprises.
She was my muse. In those days if we met up with a couple whose names I should remember, she would whisper something like, “You know Jack and Janice. They live in…” or “Their son Bill went to… with … etc. etc.” Given help from my wife I could perhaps make a little conversation. WHEW!
Meet Geoff Nate’s enemy the “Doorway.”
On May 5, 2015 the New York Times published a story on the inevitability of cognitive changes as one grows older. The article dealt with the aging process’s impact on short term memory, especially a senior’s ability to recall certain recent thoughts, ideas or objectives.
There’s something to be said for the old one-room log cabin or a loft apartment in one of those converted warehouses. You see, I have a problem which, so I understand, I seem to share with a lot of other folks. When I pass through a doorway in my house, usually with some specific objective in mind, I’m easily distracted and seem to forget the reason why I was exiting from one-room to another in the first place.
“Welcome to the club,” you say? “It must be another one of those senior things?” Perhaps, but not necessarily. The professionals have actually put a name to my problem. They refer to it as the “Doorway Phenomenon” and it doesn’t necessarily seem to be age-associated.
So rest easy those of you ‘over 50’ bloggers. You’re not losing it. You’ve just had a memory lapse caused, for some unexpected reason, by simply passing through a doorway. It really is one of those cognitive things. Some experts call it the “boundary effect.” When exiting from one room to another our memory plays tricks on us. It’s OK. You’ve got plenty of company. You don’t need a ‘shrink.’ Do like everyone else; simply return to the room you just left and start over. Usually it will come back to you.
Perhaps becoming forgetful is stressing you out. One expert blames it on our computers and cell phones which are programmed to do simple things like remembering phone numbers and reminding us of appointments. What with email, I seldom type or write letters anymore, but I do read the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times newspapers cover-to-cover every day, and my social life didn’t end with retirement. Someone once wrote “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
The folks at AARP say it’s OK for a senior to forget where he parked his car but not what it looks like. Plain old ordinary forgetfulness is not uncommon among the graying crowd. We learn to live with it. We write notes. We make lists. We employ some pretty simple tools essential to functioning in our rapidly evolving tech-oriented society. Keeping up with the young cyber-folks is a challenge, but don’t sweat it. Deal with it. If you can’t change your venue, relax, think of something else, take a few deep breaths. Before you call your shrink, go online. Check it out. You’ll find it comes with the territory.
One study claims that even millennials (age 18-34) often find themselves experiencing mental lapses. It figures. Why should they bother to depend on memory when they can turn the job over to their gadgets? They simply outsource such challenges to their devices. The cell phone becomes their extended memory. For the techies to blame their version of senior moments on multitasking is a cop out, just a lame excuse for a lazy brain. Geoff Nate is no millennial, but like the kids he doesn’t bother to remember phone numbers anymore. They’re all in the palm of his hand. Even better he’s fallen in love. Who needs to punch digits to make a call when he has Siri?
Short Term Memory Tips
There are all kinds of memory tips and exercises. For example: Repeat a man’s name when first introduced and associate his name with another acquaintance, or some popular person living or dead, or even some image or object. For instance, the name “Sandy” with a beach. Ask him how he spells it, i.e. John or Jon. If it’s a business meeting ask him for his card. Connect his first name with someone you know i.e. “Uncle Harry.” Best idea of all, write it down or memorialize it into your cell phone.
If you are fortunate enough to be in good health, have all your wits, and are not burdened by serious financial or similar stressful pressures, folks would call that “the luck of the draw.” Stress sucks. It doesn’t mix well with our body chemicals. Each senior must come to terms with his or her limitations. There is always another way to accomplish a difficult task. Hire somebody.
Kick back and relax when anxiety is sensed. As the kids say, “chill out.” Seven or eight hours of sleep a night sure helps.
As we age, society’s pressures seem to take on a new dimension. If you are retired and the young yuppie at the office has ceased to be your competition you can nevertheless expect to find yourself challenged by your peers. Other seniors may look better, appear to think faster and seem to be aging at a slower rate than you are. Is it possible that you have survived the rat race only to find yourself competing in the senior Olympics?
If you’re worried about your susceptibility to serious cognitive impairment, you can talk to your doctor about genetic testing for the Alzheimer’s gene, but do you really want to know?
Gradual age-related cognitive decline comes with the territory. However, in recent years scientists have discovered that the brain has an amazing capacity to change or adapt. They call it “neuroplasticity.” It’s the brain’s ability to rewire itself, thus enabling it to grow and change at any age. This could be great news, especially if it means that with good health and an active lifestyle we can stay mentally agile and perhaps even sharpen our short as well as long-term memories.
Most experts seem to agree that so-called cognitive decline is usually a genetic thing. However, in this current April 2017 issue of “Scientific American” magazine, two Scandinavian scientists believe that many socially active seniors can beat the odds or at least slow down the inevitable with the right diet and exercise regimen.
We’ve included the article in our Begged and Borrowed segment. Check it out.
There are all kinds of programs for seniors who are concerned about their bodies as well as their minds. They take hikes, they go to health clubs, swim, ride bikes and stay trim. Geoff Nate gets his best ideas in the shower. Our computers are just another tool in our kits.
Hopefully we take a few tips from our peers who have given up smoking, take vitamins, change their diets, perhaps move to healthier climates and seek out a less stressful lifestyle, all with the intention of maintaining their physical edge. They want to feel good, as well as look good. The assumption is that there’s a correlation between physical fitness and maintaining one’s health. In recent years the new age term “quality of life” has become as important as longevity itself.
Challenge the Selection Process
So, big deal, you’re a senior. Nobody’s recommending you get a Kim Kardashian “vampire facial,” but you can certainly do something about your physical appearance. The libraries are full of books on diet and exercise. Dentists rebuild teeth, cosmetic surgeons fix faces and the health clubs have trainers dedicated to keeping your body in shape. Let’s not overlook the hairstylists, the cosmeticians and of course the haberdasher’s specialty of making seniors look good.
For married couples, retirement means more time to spend together, to travel, perhaps relocate and begin a new life. Ideally less stressful new interests will emerge such as sports, hobbies, opportunities for community, church or public service, and more time to spend with the grandkids. Hopefully with good health the golden years can be almost as good as gold.
If you read the daily newspaper, try the crossword puzzle. Monday’s is usually easy, however you can expect each successive day to get tougher. The New York Times Sunday puzzle is really a big challenge. Our friend Barbara Goldenberg (now gone, sadly) used to do the New York Times crossword in twenty minutes, in ink yet. How about that, fellow puzzlers?
“Aging Gracefully”- Really?
Who says a senior has to act his or her age? If someone tells you that at age 75 you can expect to walk with a limp, do you have to walk with a limp?
Our cousin Hershel Gruenberg was caught up in the polio epidemic of the 1950s. He could have played the hand he was dealt and resigned himself to the world of an invalid in a veteran’s home. Instead he challenged his crippling handicap and made a life for himself. We incorporated his amazing story in Blog 11, “Ike’s Boys.” (See Geoff Nate’s Archives.)
A wise old buddy of mine once told me that life is like golf. He believes, as do I, that the secret of a stress-free golf game is to “remember the good holes.” If your psyche is burdened with a poor shot, a missed putt or an unlucky break, you can expect that the next hole and perhaps the rest of the round will more than likely be a disaster. In other words, in the parlance of the fight game, “Don’t throw in the towel.”
In college back in the 1950s, our recommended reading included a book by Norman Vincent Peale called the “Power of Positive Thinking.” It was controversial at the time and criticized by many in the psychotherapy community, however Geoff Nate bought into the concept. My recommendation: “Forget the bad holes. Life’s too short anyway. Fight the fight.” Or as the poet Dylan Thomas once wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
In 1965 we talked my 61-year-old father Gilbert Nathanson into coming out of retirement, moving to Palm Springs, California and taking over the management of our new cable TV business in that city. At the time there were 8,000 subscribers. Palm Springs is a world famous retirement community. Dad was dealing senior to senior. In four years my 65-year-old father tripled the size of the business.
In 1969 the Palm Springs cable was sold to Warner Brothers. Warners had a mandatory retirement policy at the time, and despite the job he had done, they let Gil Nathanson go. BIG MISTAKE. Within six months after his departure they lost 20% of their cable customers.
My father came out of retirement for the second time. At age 78, he and a partner opened a car rental agency in Palm Springs. Finally, and only at my mother’s insistence, he retired four years later for the third and last time at the age of 82.
I don’t do bridge anymore, haven’t in probably 40 years. However, Gil Nathanson, at age 93 was playing three rubbers a day after 18 holes of golf. Now how about that?
Senior Success Stories
Contemporary history is loaded with senior success stories. Colonel Sanders launched his Kentucky Fried Chicken business at age 64 and Diana Nyad swam from Florida to Cuba at the same age. Frank McCourt wrote “Angela’s Ashes” when he was 66. Ben Franklin invented bifocals at 78 and Arthur Rubinstein was still making concert appearances in his 90s!
David Murdoch, Chairman of Dole Foods is currently 93 years old as is Viacom’s Sumner Redstone.
There’s a “bag boy” at our local Ralph’s Market who I’m sure can’t be a day less than 75. I recently attended the wedding of an attractive young physical therapist to 75-year-old Las Vegas singer/song-writer Paul Anka. Guests at the wedding included hotel magnate Steve Wynn, also 75, and master financier Warren Buffett, 86.
My Malibu neighbor, film producer/director Paul Almond, recently passed on, but not before completing the eighth in his series of Canadian Chronicles at age 83. Oscar-winning movie actress Olivia De Havilland, age 100, is still considering scripts.
The foods we eat are important, or so the experts say. They recommend green vegetables and colorful fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Fish a couple of times a week is recommended. Salmon appears to be the right color. They also say good things about nuts for the heart and recommend a handful a day. Nuts seem to work for Geoff Nate, especially when accompanied with a dram or two of Scotland’s finest.
A hundred and fifty years ago they used to sell supposed “cure-alls” for just about everything. Sarsaparilla was sold in saloons. It was guaranteed to treat colds, coughs, ringworm, and was recommended as an aphrodisiac. You can buy sarsaparilla today by the bottle, pill or “tincture” (whatever that is).
Hadacol was popular back in the 1930s and 40s as a treatment for high blood pressure, strokes, ulcers, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, pneumonia, anemia, cancer, epilepsy, gall stones, hay fever, and just about everything. It was popular in the South where it was sold in medicine shows.
It was advertised on TV. I still remember the commercials. [Click Play below.]
Today the drug and health food stores are loaded with so-called brain supplements with names like “Cerebral Charge,” “Smart X,” “Dr. Feel Good Multivitamin and Mineral Formula” and of course, “Ginkgo biloba,” to name a few. They all seem to contain various kinds of herbs and nutrients that are alleged to be brain boosters.
Gingko biloba has been around for a thousand years and is a common treatment in Chinese medicine. They claim it improves blood flow to the brain and sharpens memory.
One of today’s most popular remedies is Prevagen (not to be confused with Prevacid, the heartburn and acid reflux medication). Prevagen is promoted on TV as a memory booster whose purported active ingredient is obtained from jellyfish. It’s supposed to “sharpen the mind and produce clearer thinking.” The FDA is questioning such claims.
Another hot new supplement is Omega 3. It comes in soft gel form and contains certain fish oils which are supposed to be good for the heart. Geoff Nate is giving this one a try. Hey, why not?
Some men reach a time in life when the term “erect” also refers to something unrelated to one’s posture. If it’s a problem, don’t sweat it. On the other hand, should the opportunity present itself, try the little blue pill.
“The Cat in the Hat’s Ode to the Golden Years”
The Golden Years have come at last.
I cannot see.
I cannot pee.
I cannot chew.
I cannot screw.
My memory shrinks.
My hearing stinks.
No sense of smell.
I look like hell.
The Golden Years have come at last.
The Golden Years . . . can kiss my ass.