Story by Jody Sanderson

Spring 2024

I recently moved to a brand-new condo. And, let me tell you, at my age, such an undertaking is not for the faint-hearted. And, when everything that could go wrong, did, it became a tale for another day!

In the midst of it, though, I was reminded, and not gently, the cumulative effects of age on the mind and body.

In the midst of sorting, purging, packing and dealing with every bureaucratic institution to just to get the place operational, I went on a shopping trip for some new items, just because.

I found this really cool roasting pan that came complete with a cookie sheet and a broiler rack, with a base that could be used for lasagna or tuna noodle casserole. I bought it, left it in the box and tucked it away with the kitchen supplies.

I slowly transported items I wouldn’t be using every day to the new house, including kitchen items. It wasn’t until I began unpacking that I realized I couldn’t find said roasting pan — anywhere! Not the old place, not the new one; it wasn’t in a bin, a box or a shopping bag. I ransacked everything. Then I ransacked everything again, sure that I had missed it in the unpacking. Nada. It was nowhere. I fussed like a kid whose ice cream cone has ended up on the sidewalk. It wasn’t attractive.

What the heck was going on? I had to do some research to ensure I wasn’t losing my mind or discover I was in the early stages of dementia, or worse. The first thing was to look at the data.

Women respond to similar medical conditions much differently than men. A recent survey amongst women 60 and over discovered this particular anomaly is common. Not just the occasional word that is lost to be retrieved two hours later, nor being able to recall if they were in Cancun in ’97 or ’98. No, the survey showed absolute loss of items, especially carefully put away, gone.

To be honest, it was my own survey, amongst a small collection of friends across the country, of the same particular vintage! The results were startling similar.

Dr. Holly Thacker, MD, is an internationally renowned women’s health specialist. She is the founder and executive director of the Women’s Health Centre at Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.

Her research and treatments are extensive. She assures most of her patients their forgetfulness issues are absolutely normal. Deep hormonal changes completely rewire women’s brains in pregnancy and menopause, and that cognitive decline is part of the process. Aging takes its toll on our bodies and our brains. So, we’re not going crazy! Whew!

Things to help us include making lists: storing keys, wallet, sunglasses in the same place; writing appointments in a calendar immediately after making them; and not being afraid to ask for help.

“The important thing is to engage and challenge both sides of your brain,” says Thacker.

She recommends the following: crossword puzzles; phone apps to play cards and boardgames; walking; reading, anything; journaling. Meditation and prayer also keep us focused.

There may be days we are going to feel frustrated, and, in my case, stupid when stuff like this happens. But the bottom line is, we got this! And we’re all in this together!