Events that occurred between the ages of 15 and 25 are recalled at a higher rate — what is referred to as the reminiscence bump — a finding that has usually been attributed to the greater salience or emotionality of the memories during this time period. This general pattern holds across all ages, suggesting that autobiographical memory is largely preserved with age. from Ch 1 of Brain Aging: Models, Methods and Mechanisms.
WayOver70 folks are often aware of memories interfering with moment to moment Mindfulness by flooding consciousness with long forgotten events, happenings, relationships and insights. The long-term memory flow is so much stronger with each year passing 70. Sometimes the insights can knock one off course by moving consciousness far, far away from ongoing moments. It’s interesting how we recall memories of what happened decades ago but can’t remember what happened yesterday.
Pop up memories of decades long past can be a great comfort or a lesson of invaluable insight but not so good for meditation when one strives to stay with the breath and not get lost in memories. This is the primary reason for focusing on breath in detail: inhale 1, 2, 3, 4; exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or focusing on a mantra. This practice greatly improves concentration which sustains short term memory recall.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. What can we do when wishing to stay in Mindfulness and not become lost in yesterdays? Wide angle viewing shifts one back into the moment pronto. It happens when one shifts into wide-focus. Try it now and see how effective it is. Everything in view is a little fuzzy but equal in visual importance; nothing stands out. For some reason this mode of viewing discourages long-term memory returns and allows one to run the monologue of moment to moment reality so well explored in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous and many other masters.
Concentration is important to both Mindfulness and meditation. When one does not have good concentration, research shows that short term memory is often affected. Science says it is because of chronic stress producing high levels of cortisol which reduces the ability to produce new memories and thereby creates senior moments. The way to reduce possibilities of dementia is through avoidance of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and depression in mid-life. Since meditation is known to improve all of the above problems along with improving concentration and reducing stress, it is a perfect therapy for all of us.
Another problem interfering with the ability to concentrate and memory is obesity. A 27 year study of 10,000 OBESE men and women in middle age revealed a 74% increase in dementia This study published in the British Medical Journal indicates a mandatory need for a Mediterranean-style diet with lots of fatty fish AND adequate daily exercise. Adequate exercise is suggested as ½ hour of walking which can be done anywhere including at home in circles or however.
Meditation is well known to reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure and memory loss. Many studies are available online supporting its importance for a meaningful elder life and indicating a need for its presence in elder care such as nursing and retirement homes. I would say that a facility that does not offer meditation training and development is not up to date, and may not be current in other amenities.
When one is in the present moment of Mindfulness there is no past or future. When learning to practice Mindfulness we practice one thing at a time. When drinking coffee, only drink coffee and so forth with all activities and you will be resting in the eternal present. Or as Ram Das writes in Still Here “The moment is the doorway into eternity.” It is a timelessness that embraces both the past and the future.