Grey Matter

Story by Jody Sanderson

We’ve all been there.

A couple of weeks ago, my 12-year-old grandson came for a sleepover. We found ourselves at the checkout for some essential supplies: Dr. Pepper, cool ranch Doritos, popcorn and M&Ms. As I’m paying, I’m also rummaging madly in my purse, in my jacket pockets and my trusty reusable grocery bag.


Not paying attention, I finish paying and faintly hear, “Grandma!” I glance quickly and he’s pointing to the top of his head, smiling. He’s seen this many times before.

I reach to the top of my head, and yup, there they are. Duh!

Oh, sure, we laugh about walking into a room and not remembering why we’re there. We giggle when our friend tells us she’s lost her car keys … and has to call you back, the chagrin in her voice when she does and jangles the keys in our ear.

Forgetfulness. It’s a real thing. Partly because we never had problems remembering things before: errands, appointments, dates, phone numbers. Can you imagine calling anyone now without auto dial? And let’s not get started on passwords.

Well, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there’s an actual name for it. “Age-associated memory loss.” It is characterized by self perception of memory loss and a standardized memory test score showing a decline in objective memory performance. What a mouthful!

Apparently, 40 per cent of people 65 and over experience it. Less than one per cent will progress to dementia per year.

It’s normal. Normal to go to the wrong Tim Horton’s to meet a friend for coffee. Normal to leave conditioner in your hair after showering. And definitely normal to remember your tax form in the top drawer when you arrive at H&R Block for your appointment.

While we can’t get some of those pesky cells  back, we can maintain a healthy brain by sleeping well, reducing stress, eating properly and keeping active. Right now, Canada can boast having the fourth-longest life expectancy in the world, at 81. And for the first time, there are more of us around than there are under 15-year-olds. Which gives us a kind of superiority, don’t you think? We should be able to claim a little more airtime, so to speak.

My uncle, (we’ll call him Tom … cuz that’s his name and I don’t want to forget!) has lots to say about this aging thing. He’s 81 after all. He believes we forget because we’ve crammed so much stuff in our grey matter over the years, there just can’t be room for all of it. He also has come to believe that one missed appointment does not a failed life make.

So let’s keep playing Words With Friends. Let’s pay attention when our grandkid teaches us how to use the new International Space Station app. And definitely bring on pickleball!