I coach a lot of women who ask me that question. Between our hormones bouncing all over the place and the steady progression of memories that DON’T light the corners of our minds, it makes sense.
So the answer is: yes and no.
Yes, it seems as if I forget where I left my shoes more frequently (I’ve been known to ransack the house at the last minute only to find them right beside the door!). And it seems that I need my ADD meds more than ever.
But the truth is that everyone our age is dealing with ADD-ish tendencies, simply because that’s what happens to our brains and neurology as we reach “that certain age.” When you already have the real McCoy ADHD, an extra helping intensifies the effects.
Harvard Medical School says that many, many boomer-generation folks like us are rushing to psychiatrists and neurologists to see if our secret fears are confirmed: that we are losing our minds! Fortunately, even with a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, most of us are just dealing with a slowdown in processing.
Harvard Medical School reports that our memories (with or without ADD) are more difficult to access when we are over 50. It takes more time. If we give ourselves a minute to be calm, the word or the name or the location of those darned shoes will likely return.
Our memory mechanisms aren’t like a file cabinet, as doctors once believed. We don’t store our memories in a tidy brain compartment, then pull them back our again when we need them.
Memories are stored in locations all over the brain, because we collect memories from many different sensory points. You store memories of the county fair with the sights of the Midway, the smell of cotton candy and funnel cakes and the physical excitement of spinning on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Memories are stored in those smell, sight, physical sensation areas of your brain. When you remember the county fair, your brain has to pull the correct memories from all those centers to recreate your previous experience of the county fair.
There’s bad news out there about memories: recent research shows that our memories are altered slightly each time we retrieve them (fascinating! scary!). An experiment conducted soon after the attacks on September 11, 2001 showed that people interviewed immediately after the event and again six weeks later did NOT tell their story consistently.
There were major differences in their recounting of the incident and they SWORE that they were telling the exact sequence and events in the second interview as in the first!
Our brains play tricks on us. We can’t trust them. Whether they are ADD brains or not.
So if you think your ADD is getting worse with age, it may be that everyone else in our age bracket is discovering their own ADD-ish tendencies. Relax. Take a breath. Let your brain have half a second to remember the name of your dentist. And you’ll be just fine.