Your memory is like an intricate library. It houses the stories and experiences of your life. And your brain acts as a librarian, diligently organizing newly acquired memories to ensure they’re readily accessible when needed.

However, as we age, our brains can have an occasional hiccup in the organizational process of storing memories. Memory loss can feel as if some memories from the recent past are set aside on a temporary shelf, waiting to be fully integrated into the larger collection. As a result, certain memories —long or short-term —might slip away from immediate recall, making them harder to retrieve over time.

Memory loss can be quite common for older adults, making occasional forgetfulness a sign of a disruption in your brain’s organization process. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of memory loss aging adults experience — and what could be signs of concerns. Whether you’re experiencing chronic forgetfulness or you think your memory loss may be more serious, there’s a wide range of memory loss in seniors that needs to be carefully examined. Let’s begin exploring the memory loss spectrum.

What Is Short-Term Memory Loss?

Short-term memory loss is when you struggle to remember recent things because your brain has trouble remembering something that recently happened or the information it just received. It’s a common concern among older adults and can typically be attributed to the natural aging process.

There are a few causes of short-term memory loss in the elderly, including:

  • Natural, age-related changes. As we age, the brain undergoes changes, such as reduced blood flow and decreased volume in certain areas, which can affect memory retention and recall. These changes are a normal part of aging and do not necessarily indicate a more serious cognitive condition.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a condition characterized by cognitive changes that are more significant than expected for age but not severe enough to interfere with daily activities. While individuals with MCI may experience noticeable short-term memory loss, they typically retain their independence and general cognitive abilities.
  • Underlying medical conditions and/or medications. Various medical conditions and medications can contribute to short-term memory loss in seniors. Some medical conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, infections, or chronic diseases, can affect brain function. Additionally, certain medications, like sedatives, antidepressants, or antihistamines, may have side effects that impact memory. It’s crucial for older adults to receive regular medical check-ups to identify and address any health issues that may be contributing to memory problems.

It’s important to note that short-term memory loss can also be caused by other factors, including stress, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. While short-term memory loss may not always lead to other cognitive declines, it can be an early warning sign of more significant issues, especially if it worsens or interferes with daily life or home care. Loop your primary care physician into the short-term memory loss symptoms you’re experiencing to help with early detection and any needed interventions for more serious cognitive impairments.

What Level of Forgetfulness and Memory Loss Is Normal for Adults as They Age?

It’s a fact of life: it’s natural to experience changes in memory and cognition as we journey through each stage of life. While forgetfulness can be a common occurrence in younger and older adults, it’s vital to understand what level of memory loss is considered normal with aging to help distinguish between typical age-related changes and potential causes for concern.

What’s Normal

Normal age-related forgetfulness looks like forgetting where you placed your keys, blanking on a familiar name, or misplacing everyday items. These memory lapses are usually brief and don’t disrupt daily life.

What’s Not Normal

While some degree of forgetfulness is expected with aging, other memory-related issues may warrant further evaluation. Here are some telltale signs of memory loss that go beyond normal age-related forgetfulness:

  • Disrupted daily activities. Forgetting important tasks (like eating or bathing), failing to remember to attend doctor’s appointments, repeatedly getting lost in familiar places, or having difficulty following conversations can indicate more significant memory problems.
  • Repetitive questions or stories. Asking the same questions or retelling the same stories in a short period of time can signal more significant memory issues.
  • Difficulty learning new information. Retaining recently acquired information or having a hard time learning new skills may be a red flag.
  • Mood and personality changes. Unexpected mood swings or increased irritability can be associated with memory problems.
  • Confusion with time and place. Losing track of dates and seasons, or being unaware of your current location can indicate cognitive impairment that needs further evaluation.

If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms above, it’s essential to seek medical advice. A memory loss specialist can give you a cognitive assessment to identify any underlying issues and determine the best course of action.

What Causes Memory Loss and Forgetfulness?

When it comes to what causes memory loss and forgetfulness, there are a variety of factors, including normal aging memory loss to more serious underlying health conditions that affect the brain’s function. Here are some common reasons and health conditions that can impact memory and forgetfulness:


As mentioned earlier, age-related changes can lead to mild memory lapses and forgetfulness. These normal changes include decreased blood flow to the brain and reduced volume in certain brain regions. Since these brain changes are a natural part of life, natural forgetfulness with aging shouldn’t be a major cause of concern.


Dementia is a broad term used to describe a group of cognitive disorders that cause a decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which involves the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, leading to the death of nerve cells and the deterioration of cognitive function. There are other lesser-common kinds of dementia, including Lewy Body dementia, Vascular dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia.


Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder that affects memory and cognitive function. As the disease advances, individuals may experience significant forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty performing everyday tasks.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

MCI is a condition where individuals experience memory loss that is beyond age-related forgetfulness but does not yet interfere with daily activities. Some people with MCI remain stable; however, others progress to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.


While Parkinson’s disease is primarily associated with movement-related symptoms, it can also lead to cognitive changes. People with Parkinson’s disease may experience a hard time with short-term memory, attention, and problem-solving.

It’s essential to remember that experiencing occasional forgetfulness does not necessarily indicate a serious underlying condition. However, persistent or worsening memory problems —especially when accompanied by other concerning symptoms — should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

When Should You Seek Help From a Neurologist for Short-Term Memory Loss or Forgetfulness?

Since forgetfulness is common in seniors, it’s important to stay vigilant and notice when simple forgetfulness turns into a more chronic, serious impairment. Here are some symptoms to look out for that signal the need for medical advice:

  1. Significant disruption of daily activities. If forgetfulness begins interfering with daily life — forgetting essential tasks, appointments, or important events — it can be a cause for concern.
  2. Repeatedly getting lost in familiar places. If a senior becomes disoriented in familiar surroundings, it can be a sign of potential cognitive impairment.
  3. Difficulty following conversations or instructions. Struggling to maintain focus during conversations or having a hard time understanding instructions may indicate memory-related issues.
  4. Repeated questions or stories. Asking the same questions or telling the same stories in a short time could signal more serious memory problems.
  5. Drastic mood or personality changes. Unexplained mood swings, increased irritability, or social withdrawal can be associated with memory issues and should not be ignored.

If any of these symptoms are present, seek medical advice for yourself or your loved one from a memory loss specialist. Early detection and intervention of memory issues can lead to better management at home or at a long-term care facility and improved outcomes for seniors experiencing short-term memory loss or forgetfulness.

How Can You Prevent and Cope With Memory Loss?

While many seniors worry about a physical decline in their body, an even bigger concern is mental decline. Maintaining a sharp mind can help seniors live a full, rich life into their golden years. Here are some ways to prevent memory loss —or cope with forgetfulness if you’re already experiencing it.

Diet and Lifestyle

It’s vital to maintain healthy eating habits into your senior years. Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon are particularly beneficial for brain health. In addition to great nutrition, make sure to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day, as dehydration can impair cognitive function. Finally, reduce alcohol consumption and eliminate smoking, as those habits can have negative effects on brain health and memory.

Consistent Routine

Having a consistent daily routine can help with memory retention and reduce stress. Routines are stored in the long-term memory section of your brain, so having one can help seniors continue doing daily activities on their own for as long as possible. In addition to a regular daily routine, it’s essential to establish a sleep schedule. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to support memory consolidation and cognitive function.

Mental Stimulation

Engaging in activities that challenge your brain — like puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, or brain training apps — can keep your mind sharp. Pursuing new hobbies or activities can also maintain cognitive flexibility and memory.

Maintaining Connections

Staying connected to friends and loved ones can positively impact cognitive health. Take walks with family members, chat on the phone with loved ones, and participate in meals with friends and family. Participate in clubs or social groups that share common interests, providing mental stimulation and a sense of belonging.


Navigating the complexities of memory loss and forgetfulness in your or your loved one’s later years requires understanding, compassion, and proactive care. While some level of forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, it’s essential to recognize when memory-related concerns might indicate underlying issues. Older adults can promote brain health and maintain cognitive function by adopting a healthy lifestyle, engaging in mental and social stimulation, and seeking medical advice when necessary. Remember, the library of memory holds the key to a fulfilling and vibrant retirement journey, where every chapter is beautifully preserved and cherished. Let us celebrate this journey with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to nurturing our most precious memories.

Learn more about what to expect during your golden years by exploring the resources on We’re here to help answer any questions you may have about retirement, future planning, and aging.