f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

June 16, 2005

peridementia and our aging knowledge workers

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:56 pm

Do you suffer from “peridementia“? Would you want to hire a lawyer or

doctor, or any knowledge worker, who did? 

Similar to perimenopause, what I call peridementia is the period

before actual dementia occurs, in which the subject starts to have

a mild version of the loss of intellectual capacity that is associated

with dementia — i.e., impairment of attention, orientation, memory,

judgment, language, motor and spatial skills, and function (not

caused by major depression).

To be called dementia, the symptoms have to be severe enough to ekgG

“interfere with social or occupational functioning.” I’ve been wondering,

however, just when interference with job functioning becomes significant

enough that something needs to be said and done about it.

If my otherwise-healthy, middle class and professional, over-50 friends are

any indication, there’s a lot of peri-dementia going around. People who joked

a few years ago about their first batch of Senior Moments, aren’t joking any

more. We seem to be having “brainos” that are quite a bit more worrisome than

the increased numbers of typos found in our documents. They include episodes of

mild confusion and disorientation; skipping steps in necessary tasks; and memory

lapses considerably more important than the proverbial word on the tip of our tongues.


what did you forget?
retracing steps

ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue

I’ve been meaning to talk about this topic here at f/k/a for several months, but

I kept forgetting (rim shot!). A spate of news stories finally got me to buckle

down and do some thinking, linking and posting. Baby Boomers, and generations

to follow, are going to be working longer — some because they have to and some

because they want to do so.

NYT‘s John Tierney is correct that “If the elderly were willing to work longer,

there would be lower taxes on everyone and fewer struggling young families.

There would be more national wealth and tax revenue available to help the

needy.” (He, and NYT‘s Toner and Rosenbaum, are also correct that even

raising the issue of higher retirement ages amounts to political suicide — or,

at least, early political retirement.) Watching some remarkable amateur

athletes in their late 60s and early 70s, Tierney asks (emphasis added): “Is

it possible that people this age are still physically capable of putting in a full

day’s work at the office?” Living with and seeing peri-dementia a decade or

more before the “normal” retirement age, I ask “Who’s going to be mentally

capable of putting in a full or half day at the office in their 60s and 70s?”

the aging gourd
and I
cast our shadows

…………………………………  ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue


When AARPers and union leaders resist the notion of indexing Social Security spiltBucketG

to longevity, or otherwise postponing retirement further, they usually point to

people who do physically-demanding jobs. (They also ask just where all the

jobs are going to come from for the Baby Boomers who need or want to

continue working.) Profesors Becker and Posner recently asked about judges

and law professors who “Overstay Their Welcome.” Judge Poser noted that a

loss in mental capacity from aging “may reduce the value of [their] entire output to

zero,” but he focused on septuagenarians. I’m thinking that a noticeable reduction

in intellectual output — or a significant increase in errors — could very well occur

long before the traditional retirement age.


Since Merrill Lynch says that “76% of boomers intend to keep working and earning”

after retiring from their regular job, peridementia could become quite important. Consider

the Boomers who have no choice but to continue working due to financial imperatives.

What are their actual or potential employers, and co-workers, going to do about peri-

dementia? How should ethical requirements of competence affect the choices made

by lawyers and other professionals? Will age discrimination laws become a shield for those

who aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be? Does society want to offer such protection?

the dragonfly, too
works late…
night fishing

ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue

I used to joke that Baby Boomers would always be able to get jobs, because

— unlike a lot of younger folk — we can alphabetize. However, a few sessions

shelving books by author at our Library’s Used Book Store has me a bit less

cocky on this score. I’ve been experiencing the same torpid shelving speed

(and fumbling around at the cash register) that I had associated with some of

the blue-haired-lady volunteers. This performance might be acceptable from

volunteers, but who’s going to pay for it? And, what about analogous, but more

crucial, malfunctioning by knowledge workers?

with the old pine
the two of us…
forgetting the year


………………….. ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue


I wish more webloggers, and our readers, were near or over 50, so I could spiltWine

get some first-hand reactions to these questions. (Of course, anonymity might be

very important, if we were to open the floor to braino confessions.) Is the problem

far less significant that I’ve suggested — either because my personal episodes have

more to do with having CFS that with being 55, or because the complaints of my

friends and associates are just typical Boomer self-absorption and exaggeration.

the bees with children
are work-a-holics…
making honey


………………………… ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue

NewMind Daniel Pink’s new book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age

to the Conceptual Age (2005), may offer some hope for Boomers whose brains are less

analytically sharp, but whose emotional intelligence is still increasing. Pink says we have

left the Information Age behind and entered a new Conceptual Age — where it will be right-

brain thinking, rather than left-brain skills, that will bring career success. We simply need to

develop the six senses that Pink calls Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.

Mark Williams, M.D., author of The American Geriatrics Society’s “Complete Guide to Aging

and Health,” says, “The fear of dementia is stronger than the fear of death itself.” I hope I haven’t

increased your anxiety with this posting. If you’d like to guard against or diminish peridementina,

you should find some excellent tips at Making Our Minds Last a Lifetime (Psychology Today,

by Katherine Greider, Dec. 1996), and Dementia Prevention: Brain Exercise. What’s the secret

to keeping our brains agile and fit? Greider says, “mental and physical challenges are both

strongly connected to cerebral fitness.” And, so is taking the time for leisure activity. As for

those occasional brainos, I’ve got you covered — at least for now.


p.s. To Lawyers Young and Old: The Greider article stresses that “A

sense of self-efficacy may protect our brain, buffeting it from the harmful

effects of stress.” According to the work of Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., of the

Harvard Medical School:

[T]here’s evidence that elevated levels of stress hormones

may harm brain cells and cause the hippocampus–a small

seahorse-shaped organ that’s a crucial moderator of memory–

to atrophy. A sense that we can effectively chart our own

course in the world may retard the release of stress hormones

and protect us as we age. “It’s not a matter of whether you

experience stress or not,” Albert concludes, “it’s your attitude

toward it.

surprising the worker
in the field…
out-of-season blooms

ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue


by dagosan:

forgetting the name

of the pretty one —

the tip of my tongue

…….. [June 16, 2005]

afterthought:  Don’t miss our magnum opus “The Graying Bar: Don’t Forget the Ethics”  (March 20, 2007)


  1. Thank you for posting this. I and my siblings are caring for my mother [91] who has dementia and I had just written a piece on my live journal about the fear engendered by dementia when up close to it. The stress itself can cause ‘brainos’ and, leaving her to return to a world which seems difficult to immediately adjust to, due to the mental disorientation [caused by the intensity of periods with someone who is trying hard to appear ‘normal’ but whose confabulations are becoming bizarre] I almost fear that I’ve ‘caught’ some of her symptoms. The episodes tou mention as peridementia show that I am far from alone in wondering how long before I start being seriously compromised by a decline in my mental processes.

    Is this a site one can join?

    I’m 57 and live in the UK

    Comment by K N Hatton — December 29, 2007 @ 8:47 am

  2. Thanks for your comment, KN. We don’t have “membership” at this weblog. I do all the writing of the pieces posted, and anyone can read and comment.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 29, 2007 @ 9:40 am

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