Forgetfulness is everyone’s problem, but as we have said it can be acutely so for people as they get older. For some time I have had difficulties with names, able sometimes to remember a first but not the second one, and vice versa. There are various stratagems for dealing with this, sometimes with and often without success! At home we try and use each other’s memory store and together can often get to the year something happened, or who was with whom at such a such event, and the name of a book and its author, and who starred in a film, and so on. It can be a laborious but often amusing process. Apparently memory is always there, it’s getting to it that’s the challenge. If that’s true it only makes the remembering game that much more frustrating.
So – a long term problem that gets worse as you age. For me the latest manifestation of it is now trying to remember words. I know what I want to say, begin to say it, but then can’t call to mind the next and perhaps most important word that makes sense of everything else.
There is then a race between me trying to get to the word and kind people wondering how long they should wait before they suggest what the word might be.
Linked with this is the ‘ghost’ that beckons ageing people: the fear of senility. Are these the first signs? I have seen enough of dementia in the people I have known when I was working, to dread it. And yet, seeing a revealing and quite embarrassing TV programme the other night of the decline and eventual death of the outrageous jazz musician and author, George Melly, even that ghost is not so fearful. There he was, affected by appalling ill health including senile dementia, but performing to the last, able to communicate with old friends who one after the other came effectively to say ‘goodbye’, and surrounded by the love of his friends, fans and his stoical wife.
And despite trying to find the elusive word- this new sign of advancing age- the comforting thing is to look around and find that your contemporaries are having exactly the same problem!