No, you probably don’t have Altzheimer’s….!

This post should probably be appearing on my new site

However, being an uncharacteristic hive of industry today, I have posted something new there already – check it out! What was I saying? Oh yes, NOW I remember…..which brings me to the friend in whose honour I am republishing a book review which appeared here on ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’ last year. I spoke to her this morning. She was (once again!) so worried about incipient Altzheimer’s that she wanted to re-borrow the book I had lent her last year which she had found incredibly reassuring. It is called “Where did I leave my Glasses?” and is absolutely wonderful. No-one over the age of fifty should ever leave home without it.

Here is my review:

“Where Did I Leave My Glasses?”

The What, When and Why of Normal Memory Loss

by Martha Weinman Lear

A few weeks ago my husband dashed off to an evening meeting. Shortly afterwards, he rang me, sounding stressed. “Can you please find my glasses for me? A friend is passing by shortly – she can pick them up and bring them along to the meeting.” My irritation with him dissolved into fits of laughter when I eventually found the glasses. Where were they? Yes, sitting right on top of  the book he was then reading, called “Where Did I Leave My Glasses?” by Martha Weinman Lear.

Exhibit A - the glasses!

One of the realisations which don’t dawn until the fifties – I speak for myself here, maybe you are ninety-six and still in denial! – is that it’s all downhill physically from now on. I think writer Richard Holloway is right when he talks in one of his books (surprise, surprise, can’t remember which one….) about the importance of starting to cultivate fortitude once you reach your fifties. Time is going to win, and you, small speck of ephemeral matter, are going to lose – no matter what you do to try and stave off the aging process.

An indestructible sense of humour is a huge asset in facing this truth. So is information which cheers you up rather than depressing you. Everyone over the age of fifty should therefore read this book. It succeeds in being simultaneously very informative and very entertaining on the topic of normal memory loss, a subject which generates intermittent worry for, I would estimate, at least 99 per cent of us who are baby-boomers and older.

Martha Weinman Lear, former articles editor and staff writer with the New York Times Magazine, is well qualified to research and present information and opinion on the topic of memory loss, having written extensively before on social and medicine-related topics.

I infer from the book that she is a person past the first flush of youth. Here she is, inviting us to

“Consider our own memory situations, yours and mine.

Here is mine:

Adjectives elude me. Verbs escape me. Nouns, especially proper nouns, totally defeat me. I may meet you at a party, have a long, lovely conversation with you, be charmed by you, want to know you forever, and a day later not remember your name….”

The book is laugh-aloud entertainment, rooted in real conversations with real people all of whom including herself have funny disclosures to make centering round the five top responses to the question she put to all the lay and expert interviewees in the book, ie ‘What can you most reliably depend upon yourself to forget?’

These five were:

Where did I leave my glasses?

What was I just saying?

What did I come in here for?

What did I ask you to remind me to do?

What’s her(his, its) name?

Lear’s book may be wittily written, but it is also thorough and well-informed in exploring aspects of normal memory and memory loss, including why we are actually wired to forget. She covers a range of topics including sex differences in memory function and deterioration, different types of memory, how to train the aging brain into being more efficient at remembering – and most fascinating of all, the future of memory enhancement in a culture where increasingly we are living longer than biology built our bodies to last.

I found “Where Did I Leave My Glasses?” enormously comforting and reassuring in the face of the spectre that haunts our increasingly long-lived Western populations – Altzheimer’s. Lear’s book’s central message is that most memory lapses beginning in middle age are universal: a normal part of the inevitable process of aging.

In short, don’t worry if you don’t know where you left your glasses. But do worry – and seek help – if you can’t remember what your glasses are for….

Exhibit A - the glasses!

(this is the slightly edited and re-published version of a book review published on this site in 2009)

800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

6 thoughts on “No, you probably don’t have Altzheimer’s….!

  1. Lol Anne – my children inform me that since reaching the half century milestone in December I have indeed become a forgetful git at times…… ah well luckily I have two allies – the indedstructible sense of humour you mentioned and that other thing we discussed DGAFS – wonder if you remember what that was hahah!!!

    love the article btw 😛


  2. HI Carole

    yes, I do remember – but we are much too polite here at WFTTH to be explicit about such matters! Interesting how the middle aged brain seems to have no problem in retaining rude stuff, but can’t remember what its owner had for dinner yesterday….

  3. very reassuring indeed! and sorry it took me so long to figure out the blog technology.enjoying the experience very of the original volonteers in 1997!thank you again anne.

  4. good to know I am not alone – think all these aides memoires are an excellent idea – but will I remember them!!!!!!??

    more power to your elbow girl! love Sheilagh

    ps forgot to press the “submit comment” box the first time I did this – does that mean I am beyond help?

  5. Hi Sheilagh

    if you can find your glasses to see to log on, you are in FRONT of help, not beyond it…..!

    Great to hear from you on this site too!



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