Faith Salie: What's the reality behind "senior moments"?

"Sunday Morning" contributor Faith Salie says the older brain struggling to recall facts isn't slower because it's aging, but because it's so full of stuff! Daniel Grill/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Turning one of the minuses of aging into a plus is the task Faith Salie has assigned herself this morning:

I'm sure you remember the recent study that reveals that elderly brains slow down because older folks know so much. You kinda remember it? No?

Well, don't feel old; feel knowledgeable!

Scientists have discovered that, as we age, our brains act like computers with fuller and fuller hard drives. So when we're trying to recall a fact or a word or a name, it takes us longer, because -- to put it scientifically -- our brains hold a lot of "stuff."

Whippersnappers simply don't know as much, so their roomy brains find information with more -- oh, what's the word? Uhm ... alacrity! That's it!

You're not forgetting; you're sifting.

This should be of comfort to anyone entering middle age, or living in middle age, or who is middle age-adjacent.

And it might explain why, during this year's Oscars, John Travolta introduced actress and singer Idina Menzel as "Adele Dazeem."

Maybe it was a problem with his eyesight or with the TelePrompter. But John Travolta is getting old, despite what his hair is trying to tell us. He's an A-lister who's worked with lots of big names, so his 60-year-old brain had to rummage through Gabe Kaplan and Olivia Newton-John and Uma Thurman and Kirstie Alley to get to Adele Dazeem.

This full-brain theory also sheds a new light on politicians. For example, maybe Rick Perry, who seems poised to run again in 2016, knows a lot more than we thought. Barack Obama, too; his mental mainframe seems pretty stuffed. Hillary Clinton, too; her mental mainframe seems pretty stuffed.

So embrace those "senior moments" and start thinking of them as "seniority moments." You wouldn't want to take your hard-earned hard drive to some Genius Bar and have it wiped to make your brain faster, would you? Think of losing the name of your first grade teacher, or your favorite line of poetry, or any of those '70s movie quotes.

Look, I'm no scientist, but I'll dare extrapolate and say that it's pretty obvious that the more you struggle to recall something, the smarter you are!

Try to remember how brilliant you are the next time you can't find your glasses.

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