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The Lighter Side of Senior Moments

Pill mix-ups, missing glasses and cell phones — and she did what with the groceries?

By Linda Bernstein

As soon as I swallowed the pill, I realized what I had done. My Synthroid (which I have to take) looks vaguely like an Ambien (which I sometimes take). There I was at 7:30 in the morning, knowing I had just ingested a sleeping pill and there was nothing I could do about it. I pushed myself through that Wednesday. I had work that had to get done, even if all I really wanted to do was snuggle back between the covers and doze. Yet as icky as I felt (like a mild case of the flu), I kept bursting out laughing. Here was proof positive that I was indeed losing (a little part of) my mind.
As long as taking the wrong pill fell within the bounds of mild memory loss and absent mindedness that’s typical of 50-plussers — and it does — I could write the whole episode off as amusing. And I could take solace in knowing that I was in excellent company.

(MORE: 6 Memory Problems That Shouldn't Worry You)
The Funny Side of Mild Memory Loss
I can hardly have a conversation with a friend these days without one of us 'fessing up to yet another senior moment. When I told Chloe about my pill mix-up, she replied, "Maybe someday I'll tell you about the time I accidentally took my husband's Viagra instead of my Lunesta." Before I could comment, she added: "Hey, don't judge. They're both blue, and I need glasses."

To make us all feel better, I've rounded up some of the funnier flubs I've heard in recent, uh, memory.
Lori Jo says she once asked her son to get the “roof” instead of the lid for the pot she was using. 
When Janie can’t find her cell phone, she calls her number from her landline and listens for the ring, which is good problem-solving. But when she sees that she’s missed a call on her cell, she gets all excited — until she remembers it was from her.
Typical conversation between Susan and her husband when they’re watching TV: "Oh yeah, that’s the actor we don't like from the show with the actress we both think is hot."
Cathy recalls a lengthy phone conversation in which she complained that she couldn’t find her cell phone, only to realize that she was talking on it.
Melissa’s young adult daughter has become so exasperated at the way she forgets words that they’ve invented their own sign language.
Lisa says she recently completed the entire routine of getting her dog nice and comfy for bed after his last walk of the night — except she hadn’t remembered to actually perambulate the pup. (Her bewildered husband stood by scratching his head.)
Connie admits that sometimes, when she’s unable to find pair No. 1 and pair No. 2 of reading glasses, she goes to pair No. 3. On the way to the drawer, she passes the mirror and sees she has both pairs on the top of her head. (She also admits to sometimes trying to open the back door to her house with her “keyless” car remote.)
Which is kind of like something Joanie does: pick up the TV remote and try to make a phone call. And Betsy does the opposite: She’s been puzzled when her iPhone won’t change the channel.
Mindy says that she couldn’t figure out why her roasting chicken smelled like melting chocolate — until she remembered having “hidden” a box of chocolate candy in the oven.
Maryanne blames her inability to remember things like leaving the shower running when she jumps out to answer the phone or feeding the cat twice on her “menofog.”
Amanda goes to the cash machine. She comes back with her card and her receipt, but not the money.
Kim, laughing, recalls finishing off her coiffure with Dow Scrubbing Bubbles instead of hair spray.
While putting away the groceries, Bonnie stashes the package of light bulbs in the refrigerator, prompting her husband to ask, “Is that something Martha Stewart suggested for prolonging their life?”
Another food-shopping epic fail: coming home with the groceries and putting that bag in the garbage after stashing the garbage in the refrigerator.

(MORE: Why a Love of the Arts Will Help Your Brain Age Better)
8 Tips to Boost Your Memory
While we may not reach a goal of total recall, dozens of studies show we can stave off significant memory loss. The one consensus: The sooner we take action, the better.

  1. Get a massage with rosemary oil. Rosemary may help improve memory because it contains chemical compounds that prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, which supports memory. Treat yourself to a massage with rosemary oil or keep a rosemary plant on your kitchen windowsill — for cooking and aromatherapy. 
  2. Sleep on it. A solid slumber protects new memories by insulating them from other impressions that our brain would store if we remained awake. So if you need to remember something, read about it right before you get some shut-eye. 
  3. See you in the funny papers. Matthew Clark, of the Clark Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., says that during laugh-out-loud moments, the brain shoots off memory-boosting neurons. So this college humor website must be great for us!
  4. Hang out with your friends. An active social life makes your memory sharper, according to a 2008 report from the Harvard School of Public Health. Lively talk and emotional ties apparently create a lot of brain juice. 
  5. Eat blueberry pie and strawberry jam. A long-term study from the Channing Laboratory in Boston indicates that the flavonoids contained in blueberries and strawberries have strong antioxidant properties that decrease the inflammation that can contribute to a decline in brain functioning.
  6. Play the name game. Your neighbor’s first name is Barbara, but you can’t budge it from the tip of your tongue into your conversation. Sing the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” a few times while picturing her and you’ll always know what to call her. offers a list of useful mnemonic devices
  7. Chew a stick of Juicy Fruit.  The effects are short term, but researchers think chewing warms up the brain, in an activity called “mastication-induced arousal.” (Almost sounds sexy.) 
  8. Get up and move! Here’s a three-fer. Exercise aids information retention and it helps you maintain a normal weight, which, in turn, lessens your risk of hypertension and diabetes, both known to impair memory. So why not try a new form of exercise? If pole dancing’s not your style, maybe learning to dance Gangnam style is.  

Of course, I should probably admit that I had a bit of trouble accessing the Gangnam Style video. I momentarily confused my cell phone with my computer mouse.

Linda Bernstein has written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines and newspapers, writes the blog GenerationBsquared and teaches journalism at Long Island University, Brooklyn. Read More
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