Does Age Affect Memory? (page 2)

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Procedure for Study

  1. Arrange your cards randomly on a table face down.
  2. Start your timer. Have you test subjects sit at the table and flip over two cards. If the images on the cards match, they can put them aside. If they don’t match, the subject must turn them back over before choosing two cards again to turn over. The object of the exercise is to remember where certain cards with certain images are located in order to pair them.
  3. Record the age and the time it took to complete the matching memory game for each test subject in a table. Did your study demonstrate that older people have worse short-term memories?


Your results will vary. You will likely find that generally, older test subjects will take longer to complete the memory game than younger test subjects. However, you may also find that there are exceptions to this trend. Your data might show that older people will not always have poorer memory capacities than younger people.


There are many more factors that go into memory capacity than just age. Age can and often does negatively impact memory capacity, but aging doesn’t necessarily always affect memory.

An older person who has an active lifestyle, including regular physical activity, mental activity, and social interaction, could have a short-term memory as sharp as someone several decades younger. And older person with a more sedentary and isolated lifestyle will likely show poorer short-term memory retention. Happier people also have a bettery memory than people who are stressed or depressed.

Other physical factors influence short-term memory capacity include blood pressure and amount of sleep. High blood pressure limits blood supply to the brain, which makes it harder for the brain to retain and recall information. Because high blood pressure is more prevalent in older adults, this is another factor that leads us to the assumption that older people have trouble remembering things. Did your study include a sleep-deprived student? Lack of sleep will be common in college-age subjects, and is a significant contributor to memory loss, although the effects are temporary.

People who like brain-benders like crossword puzzles and other word and number games, people who exercise regularly, and even people who meditate show greater memory capacity than those who don’t engage in these activities.

Scientists have not identified a single or absolute cause of “senior moments” and age-related memory decline. Some studies have shown evidence that age degrades the brain’s ability to refocus after a line of thought has been interrupted. Age may also bring a diminished ability to access short-term information and increase the short memory degradation. Interestingly, age’s effect on long-term memory is much less. Just ask your Grandma to tell you a story about when she was your age—she’s likely to remember specific and vivid details!

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