Physiological functioning and sensory processes in elderly people

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・MLA

With physiological aging, many changes are predominant, such as loss of visual memory and systems, as well as physiological functioning. The paper attempts to explain potential changes that occur in older adults in sensory mechanisms and physiological processing and how they affect the sensory and memory with aging (both primary and secondary). Visual memory is a fleeting period of uninterpreted information. As for main memory, the capacity of the brain to retain limited quantities of information within a given time is expressed, whereas secondary memory is comparatively long-term information storage. It is well established that with an increase in age, several changes in sensory and physiological functioning actively affect memory both in visual and primary as well as secondary memory, occur. Hence, one of the main repercussions of aging is that aging accompanies slow processing speed. It is a linear derivation where primary memory as well as subsequent memory decrease about age. As such, for instance, memory functioning in sensory processes reduces in performance, thus reduces both primary and secondary memory. Uniquely, processing resources in elderly individuals decrease compared to young people, which increase. Processing resources are the limited pool of cognitive resources available for allocation of a given cognitive task. For instance, the more involved a cognitive task is, the more the resources are required. Therefore, with age, reduction in attentional resources impairs sensory processes within older people (Salthouse, 2016).

Furthermore, deep, elaborate encoding operations facilitate memory retrieval which in older people is less likely to occur, hence unable to remember specific abrupt or long-term memories. Literature establishes that older people encode information in a more generic, automatic manner leading to poorer retrieval cues as well as a subsequent reduction in performances. Consequently, as attentional capacity reduces, so does working memory- in size of storage and manipulation of information in working memory. Nonetheless, with aging, working memory deteriorates such as verbal reasoning and spatial visualization which leads to poorer retention of information such as comprehension. With this, sensory memory deterioration affects the capacity of an older person to lack specificity and clarity. In spite of this, stress is placed on some memory functionalities decrease in old age; some spared with old age. It includes physiological functioning such as conscious control. According to literature, automatic physiological functioning such as walking or running is embedded in the temporal parameters and are thought to be immune from aging. It is under the control of conscious parameters. Described as an effortful process physiological processing is an intentional and effortful process that requires rehearsal strategies and encoding. Therefore, with attentional resources impaired within the primary memory, at most, it might be involved in aging to recall intentional processes. However, the literature suggests that external factors such as inhibition can affect the mechanism of memory and sensory processes in both long term and short term (White & Pillemer, 2014).  Therefore, the paper, nonetheless, has endeavored to provide a factual and cogent information on the effect of sensory processes and physiological functioning deterioration effect on visual, primary, and secondary memory. Thus, physical aging affects sensory and memory in older people.


White, S. H., & Pillemer, D. B. (2014). Childhood amnesia and the development of a socially accessible memory system. Functional Disorders of Memory (PLE: Memory), 14, 29.

Salthouse, T. A. (2016). Theoretical perspectives on cognitive aging. Psychology Press.

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