Updated: Oct. 8, 2021

As one ages the mind’s abilities sometimes begin to shift. It helps to know some of the predictable patterns that follow.

  • Crystallized Intelligence is one’s ability to remember how to do things like ride a bicycle or file a petition. It is related to long term memory, like names and words you learned when you were young. For the most part, this remains strong and in some instances improves over time. 
  • Fluid Intelligence, involves the ability to adapt and logically analyze novel situations. It is related to short term memory, and includes the ability to recall recent information, like someone’s name. This is the area that can change as one gets older.

Also, one’s ability to shift between multiple areas of thought, like discussing one legal matter and then quickly shifting to another, becomes more difficult. One can still practice with competence in light of these changes, but it requires adaptations. Adaptations may include increased office support, delegating work load, cutting back or allowing oneself more time to handle specific tasks.

Of course, these changes can be quite difficult and can lead to negative outcomes in one’s practice and life. Problems like alcoholism, depression, grief, stress, and health problems can exacerbate the situation, leading to a more precipitous decline in mental functioning. 

The first step in addressing these concerns is to meet with your primary care doctor. The next step often involves an evaluation with a Geropsychologist. These tests of mental processing can indicate differential abilities, impairments in functioning, or serve as a useful baseline should decrements in functioning occur going forward. Member Wellness Program providers are available to consult with you regarding these sensitive matters and can also provide you with referral resources.

For more information, AARP has a Brain Health and Longevity section.