Memory is not a single construct. Rather, memory is
a system comprised of three processes. As you age, each of the three processes
commonly shows unique changes:
'Encoding' means to receive or attend to information.
When you are the one who determines the pace at which information is received
and the task is a familiar one (e.g., reading a newspaper article), then the
ability to encode information does not seem to change with age. In contrast,
encoding skills decline with age when the task is unfamiliar or when the pace
of delivery of information occurs quickly.
Your brain has a certain capacity to store information.
Information that has been encoded or learned is held in storage for anywhere
from a brief period of time ('sensory memory'), such as a few seconds, to
a few minutes, ('short-term memory') to years ('long-term memory') to decades
('remote memory'). Older adults typically show some age-related loss in long-term
memory but not in sensory, short-term, or remote memory.
'Retrieval' refers to the process of recalling information
on demand. There are age-related changes in the retrieval process with older
adults typically having greater difficulty spontaneously recalling information
without any cues. When aided by cues, however, older adults show similar capability
as younger adults in the process of memory retrieval.