Is it left, or right?

Memory is funny; well, more, it is one of the most incredible things that makes us us.

Too much memory – think, Funes the Memorious or Luria’s Shereshevsky  or, too little – Clive Wearing, and life is tough.

We all have different shades of remembering – some are good with faces, others names, voices, numbers or topography.

In a recent New Scientist article, they describe research by Hugo Spiers of University College London, into orientation and ageing. It seems, the older we are the worse we are at finding our way about – strangely, people from Scandinavia seem better than most, but, as we age, our brains struggle more and more to find out where we are and where we are going.

But, the point, to me, relates to dementia.

People with dementia can easily lose their way – this is frequently one of the earliest signs of the disease, young or old, early or advanced. Something affects an individual’s sense of where they are; orientation.

We often hear of patients in hospital who have dementia, described as ‘wanderers’ – this is despite the efforts of a minority to re-conceptualise this as ‘walking with purpose’ – that is, that people who walk our  wards, unsure of where they are, are indeed not wandering, not ambling meaninglessly from A to B, but trying to understand better their environment – looking for home, the bus or, mum.

I certainly find it more difficult to navigate now I am in my 40’s compared with when I was younger. Is this ageing or something else? What effect does Google Maps have on our neural pathways?

We all have aspects of our self that are defined by the presence or absence of memory; who we support, oppose or love – the array of perceptions that makes us us is based on where we have been as much as where we plan to go.

Let’s stop a moment and consider that we are all a little lost in the world – none of us truly understands our place, or the place of others, the value of our work or experience. This lottery suggests that we are likely all wanderers. All, locked into an irrevocable movement forwards, which might be backwards, but, which is nevertheless movement.

sacks

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