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post #6 of Old 09-14-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Sailing as a senior

Another aspect of aging is loss of cognitive function. This is very slow, hard to miss and it is insidious. Everyone expects to become forgetful as they age. But what other cognitive (if any) degrade? Response time? There is also a difference between short and long term memory. How would short term memory impact on owning, maintaining and sailing a boat? Does this mean you can't find things you stowed? Does it mean that you forget little protocols?

My sense is that we accept and expect that we will lose our old physical capabilities less than the loss of cognitive function which may even be hard to see in ourselves. Here is what MAY??? be an example of this.

You have a garage with an remote controlled door operation. When you drive up to the garage you obviously realize the door has to be opened. So you press the remote and the door opens. You drive in. And then get out of the car. You KNOW that you brought of even bought some things to take into your home. It's second nature and obvious to take keys, phone etc. You KNOW this. Yet... you might grab the phone off the seat get out and realize you forgot the keys? Were you pre occupied thinking about something? But why would such a routine not go an "automatic" Why does it require more purposeful attention. Same for closing the garage door. You know it's to be closed but might walk away go into the apartment of house etc.... forgetting to press the remote and leave the garage open. You never look back because the system is reliable and makes some noise to tell you its closing which is processed typically almost subconsciously. Mind do management in the background.

This is not unlike balance. As we lose it in the background we are forced to be mindful of keeping our balance. The adaptive behavior is to get some "support" or sense of balance by holding on to things... making other muscles do the work of stability.

My sister has dementia. I had witnessed her cognitive decline over about 5 years. It is interesting because she was a brilliant, educated well read person. She might do something like this. I pick her up at assisted living to take her for a doctor exam. She brings her little shoulder bag... habit when going outside. I assume she has her ID's, wallet, keys and so on and say nothing. We get to the doctor's office and of course they request ID and perhaps a co pay. She opens her bag and it's not there... but she had put in an old "wallet" with nothing in it.


We return to her assisted living apartment and she takes off little should bag and places it over the back of a chair... something women often do in a restaurant. I think nothing of it. The chair was right there so why not. A few minutes later she is walking around the tiny apartment looking for something. What are you looking for? My bag she says... I put it somewhere. So look what happened. In her mind she knows normal people put things like hand bags somewhere. She couldn't find it because her mind was not only not reminding her where would TYPICALLY puts it... but it failed to see the bag which was in plain sight... or remember that a minute before SHE had put it THERE.

How often to I get up from my desk wanting a drink or a coffee... only to arrive at the kitchen and forget why I went there. My mind will semi panic and find some kitchen task to do... could be eating or drinking or washing dishes or taking something frozen out of the freezer to defrost for dinner. It's not hard to find some kitchen appropriate thing to do once there... but it may not be why we went there in the first place. Our mind will find some reason!

I am forever increasingly lately trying to remember where some things are stowed. Everything has a place... but it's place is changed by me from time to time probably thinking the new place is better for n number of reasons than its old place. It may be true but we may still look in the old place! And then not finding it there.... try to figure out why and then where we moved it. hahahahahaha (if we can)


For sure sailing involves lots of awareness of the environment. I would imagine that a fair amount of the information about the environment is being processed in our brains/minds subconsciously. It may only come into our consciousness when it exceeds some parameter. So may fail to notice wind changes without some other cues (tell tales, flagging sail, wave pattern etc.) Does old age impact our sub conscious minds ability to "perform on auto pilot"? I think so.

And I think people develop work arounds such as not having to remember where your keys are but having a key hook by the door. Routines don't require the same level of consciousness? But this can be dangerous too. It can lead to letting down our guard and not paying full attention.

I think that the insidious nature of the loss of cognitive function makes it hard to see in oneself, hard to accept, and could lead to "problems" operating a boat. So single handing makes less sense... not because the sailor can't single hand... but having another person there changes the mental and physical environment... so 1+1 is actually greater than 2 in a sense.

pay attention... someone's life depends on it
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