Dementia versus normal ageing

Social worker Debbie Beech gave a talk on normal ageing vs dementia during World Alzheimer’s Month in September.


Do I have early onset dementia or is my memory loss the result of normal ageing?

Many older persons – and their loved ones – grapple with this question. With September being World Alzheimer’s Month, Rand Aid Association social worker Debbie Beech gave a talk on the topic at Elphin Lodge retirement village on September 12.

World Alzheimer’s Month was initiated by Alzheimer’s Disease International and this year’s theme is ‘Let’s talk about dementia and reduce the stigma’.

Debbie explained that the term dementia is an umbrella term for a series of signs and symptoms and that there are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common.

“With normal ageing, people complain about memory loss, while people living with dementia complain about memory problems only if specifically asked,” said Debbie.

Dementia causes a general lack of interest due to reasoning ability being affected but people with memory loss due to normal ageing remain keen to initiate outings, social contact and other happenings.

“As you age, you might forget parts of an incident but will recall them when reminded. With dementia, however, the entire incident may be forgotten and the person will be unable to recall it when prompted.

“Often, when it comes to dementia, close family members are more concerned about incidents of memory loss than the individual, while with normal ageing, the opposite is true.

“As people get older, they may forget the names of people rarely seen and might occasionally battle to find the correct word, but with dementia, people may forget the names of people close to them and may have difficulty finding words.

“They will battle to follow a storyline on TV and might get lost in familiar territory,” said Debbie.

Early signs of dementia include:

Poor short-term memory,

General forgetfulness,

Losing the thread of conversations,

Easily distracted,

Repeating things recently said, and

Lack of coherence when describing something.

If you think you or a loved one may be living with dementia, contact Alzheimer’s South Africa at 0860 102 681 or visit their website at

The Gauteng office of Alzheimer’s South Africa is based at Elphin Lodge and can be reached at 011 346 2757


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