We often joke that wives are better at remembering things than are husbands. Men are portrayed as forgetting anniversaries and birthdays, and sometimes their kids’ names and ages. The stereotypical women remember things from long ago, especially unwise words from the husband, as well as romantic events the husband has forgotten.
Recent scientific research indicates that this characterization may not be far from the truth. Against expectations, dementia rates seem to be declining as baby boomers creep into the dementia-prone age bracket. Despite the prevalence of brain-health risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the rates have been decreasing over the past decade or so.
It seems that an increase in education is a contributing factor to the decline. The decrease occurred in both men and women. Interestingly, “in men, the memory gains associated with each year of education were two times larger than the losses experienced during each year of aging. However, in women, the gains were five times larger” (“Education Doubles Memory Gains in Men, Quintuples in Women,” Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly). A comparison shows that an 80-year-old woman with a bachelor’s degree has the same memory abilities as a 60-year-old woman with a high school education. In other words, four extra years of education make up for the memory loss from 20 years of aging. Learning new information at a later age is easier when related to information that is already “in storage,” as it were.
Another conclusion is that girls have better memory skills than boys, so early education may particularly benefit women. They seem to be able to better remember details like where they put their keys, the names of the new neighbors, and personal details that men forget.
Learning helps the brain develop new synapses, those information highways between brain cells that transfer data. Another possibility for the relationship between learning and brain health is that more educated people tend to live healthier lifestyles; they are more aware of what they eat, how they exercise, and what habits to avoid.
More conclusive studies need to be done, and other factors may influence the onset — and prevention — of dementia, but exercising the brain through education certainly won’t hurt. You may forget your times tables and your word declensions, but you’ll remember where you put your keys!
South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to southmountainmemorycare.com/.