Attention Deficit, Technology, and Aging

It’s not just kids who struggle with attention deficit issues.

At the ripe age of 70, I find I’m having more difficulty staying focused.

It’s easy to blame being distracted on all the crap that comes in sound-bites, instant feedback, and outrageous headlines everywhere we turn. Even our social interactions with friends and family are monopolized by myriad problems and sensational happenings throughout the world.

But I think it’s more complicated than that.

Who can we blame for our lagging attention span?

The lack of focus may be due, in part, to our advancing age. Some scientific findings document an age-related decline in the brain’s ability to focus its mental resources on memory tasks, while other studies label a lack of focus as dementia rather than attention deficiency.

I’ve repeatedly experienced an increasing inability to perform some tasks well — like driving, unfortunately — where my attention is easily drawn away from what’s in front of me to what might be happening inside the car or bypassing scenery. So, I’m not surprised to see the correlation between age and the inability to remain focused on a task even when it’s as important as navigating the freeway.

Lots of cognitive testing is required to make a sound diagnosis about what might be causing one’s lack of focus. Personally, I think the idea about why my attention is eroding is more complicated than just getting older.

Technology is eroding our attention span.

Not just for adolescents and millennials, but for all of us.

Cell phones, computers, laptops, pads, tablets, smart TVs, computerized appliances, automobiles, clocks, watering systems, alarm systems, and the latest reading devices, combined with the technology required to operate and maintain all these devices is overwhelming and requires our concentrated attention.

Being overwhelmed quickly destroys my ability to pay attention to what’s in front of me, whether that means staying connected to a person (in conversation, at a party, during a lecture, or on social media) or learning about some life-enhancing gadget. How many times have you been socializing with a friend only to have them whip out their cellphone to check for messages, texts, and the latest Facebook or Instagram posts? When pop-ups, colored lights, buzzes, and chimes start blowing up my electronics, I’m inclined to shut them all off and … well, honestly, I’m inclined to take a nap or watch TV!

My 24-hour “No Tech” days help me slow down, reconnect with all things non-electronic, like reading and visiting with friends (sans electronics), or just spending time in nature. However, if I want to stay informed and modern (at least somewhat!), I can’t disconnect for long. There’s a balance in there, I’m sure. I’m still looking for it!

What about you?

How do you feel about your ability to focus? Do you agree that your aging mind is more easily distracted? And have the devices you use impacted your attention span?