Senior Moments

Senior Moments????

Don’t believe it. Don’t say it.

And don’t say it to young people.

Senior moments, when used to describe a moment of lost focus or a change in focus, are an attempt at self-deprecating humor.  They usually happen when we are expressing an idea that is long and the nature of our attention changes. It happens when we were going to say something, our attention was diverted to something else we were thinking or noticing, and we were diverted.  It has nothing to do with memory, especially short-term memory. It has to do with the diversity of working memory and attention thinking and working on different levels.

What it expresses is the fear of aging, the prejudice that aging means decline, especially mentally. That’s just not true. The brain is the one organ in the body, more than all of the others, that is constantly renewing itself. Neurogenesis–the production of new nerve cells– happens in the brain until we die. You are never losing more brain cells than you are producing, unless you have decided to shut down or unless you are among a small percentage of people, 8%, who most encounter dementia and Alzheimer’s after age 80.  And even then the statistics are very low. But program yourself for “senior moments” and you will surely have more of them.

You are always growing new neuropathways of learning and knowledge and skills.  Especially as we grow older, the great developmental task of the second-half of life, beginning at about age 40, is the inter-neuronal association of the level of information already stored in the brain with the new information in the world around us. We used to call it “wisdom.”

When a sense of meaning and purpose and a sense of personal significance last all of our lives, through neurogenesis and inter-neuronal association (putting this together into the larger picture), we can experience even greater vitality, eagerness, and anticipation of life than a twenty year old.

Remember this: the nature of the brain does change as we age. Your brain is going to change from so much attention to short-term memory, remembering all of the “diddle” of life, to a greater emphasis on working memory, and neuronal integration, getting the larger picture and becoming wise. It is a movement of the nature of integration in the ever-growing, ever developing brain.

But when you say you are having a “senior moment,” you’re making an excuse for a change in attention that you think is forgetting and decline due to aging. You add to your demise and to the cultural myth of aging as decline. You help to create ageism. You also frighten young people, for what you’re really saying is that aging is nothing to be excited about, only something to dread and fear, and certainly not anything to respect.

You do not have “senior moments.”  Never, never, never use the term.


1) What common cultural myths around aging have you grown up with? Give us your examples. In light of this blog, how do you see them now?

2) Building on the truth of neurogenesis, what activities do you engage in which foster the stimulation and growth of new nerve cells?  What tools have guided you to practice the mental truth presented in this blog? Tell us your story with examples.

3) Have you been a model for others, especially younger people, for the new concept of aging presented in this blog? How have you demonstrated your belief in continuous brain growth and physical/mental vitality? With whom? What was their reaction?


About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute