Ageing vs Dementia, How To Spot The Difference

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Ageing vs dementia, how to spot the difference. Forgetting where you left your keys or the TV remote may sometimes cause a bit concern. Alzheimer’s Society assures us it’s very normal to become a little more forgetful as we get older. As life gets busier, most people will take a little more time to remember things. They may get easily distracted and struggle to multi-task as well as they once did. These changes may become noticeable particularly from middle age onwards.

Struggling to remember things can be frustrating. It’s also hugely worrying for someone thinking it could be a sign of dementia.

For most people these changes are a result of normal ageing. For a doctor to diagnose someone with dementia, their symptoms must be bad enough to significantly affect their daily life.

Alzheimer’s Society have given us a general guide to some differences between normal ageing and possible signs of dementia. If you have concerns, make an appointment with your GP. Dementia can only be diagnosed by a qualified  health professional.

Short-term Memory

Possible changes due to normal ageing: include, sometimes forgetting people’s names and appointments but remembering them later. Misplacing things from time to time, like your phone or glasses.

Possible changes due to dementia: Forgetting the names of close friends or family. Forgetting very recent events, such as an event that happened earlier in the day. Not realising that you’ve asked the same question or said the same thing several times within a short space of time.

Attention, Problem Solving And Decision Making

Possible changes due to normal ageing: include being slower to react or think things through. Being less able to multitask, especially when distracted or feeling stressed. Making bad decisions once in a while is all very common.

Possible changes due to dementia: Feeling very confused when trying to plan. Especially with things that you used to be able to do fairly easily. Or having a lot of difficulty concentrating. Frequent poor judgement when dealing with money or assessing risks.


Possible changes due to normal ageing: include having trouble finding the right word sometimes. Needing to concentrate harder to keep up with a conversation. Getting distracted or zoning out when too many people speak at once.

Possible changes due to dementia: Having frequent problems finding the right word or forgetting the name of common objects. Having trouble following or joining a conversation and easily losing the thread of what someone is saying.


Possible changes due to normal ageing: Getting confused about the day or the week but figuring it out later. Going into a room in the house but forgetting why you went in there but remembering after having a think.

Possible changes due to dementia: Losing track of the date, season or the passage of time. Getting lost or not knowing where you are in a familiar place.

Visual Perception:

Possible changes due to normal ageing: Eyesight can change as you get older. You might need more light to be able to see well and you may become more reliant on your glasses. Vision problems can be related to cataracts or other age-related changes in the eye.

Possible changes due to dementia: Difficulty judging distances on stairs or seeing edges clearly. Having trouble reading text, even with glasses. Some types of dementia can also involve seeing things that aren’t there during the early stages.

Mood And Behaviour:

Possible changes due to normal ageing: It’s normal to sometimes feel weary or anxious. Either at work or with family or in social situations. Nobody is expected to feel positive all the time.

Possible changes due to dementia: Becoming withdrawn or easily irritable. Losing interest in work, socialising, and hobbies you once loved. Getting unusually sad or anxious and low in self-confidence. (Be mindful that these feelings can be attributed to other conditions, too).

Ageing vs Dementia is something that many of us consider from time to time. If you would like more information about dementia, visit

To support 850,000 people living with dementia today, visit to find out more about organising your own Memory Walk this Autumn.

For more health tips from “The People’s Friend”, click here

Yvonne McKenzie

Yvonne works on the Features team and admits to being nosy, so loves looking after the Between Friends letters and finding out all about our lovely readers. She also looks after our health copy and enjoys writing about inspiring people that help make the articles in the magazine so interesting.