Last month’s poll: Are you finding it harder to concentrate as you age? 83% of you said “yes”.

Do you find it harder to stay focused on complicated tasks?

You’re not the only one. As we age, we tend to get distracted much more easily.

Scientists can identify which parts of the brain are responsible for some basic functions such as hearing, vision, and movement. But more complicated tasks are believed to be handled by the frontal lobes which are much larger and more complex. They are interconnected with many parts of the brain and don’t function on their own.

The frontal lobes can be considered the brain’s CEO. In a factory, for example, workers on the production line are responsible for their one task, but the CEO controls the operations, monitors output, detects errors, makes adjustments and ensures things run smoothly.

“The executive functions allow us to transform a jumbled heap of puzzle pieces into a coherent picture,” explains Dr. Brian Levine, a senior scientist in the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest.

The various networks and connections in the frontal lobe allow us to use accumulated skills and retrieve information from past experience to help us with a task. But as we age, we tend to get distracted and veer off course. Anything that affects other parts of the brain can affect executive function. Even common conditions such as fatigue, stress or grief can affect our ability to concentrate on a complicated task.

Reduce distractions in your external environment and make an effort to concentrate on one key task at a time, Dr. Levine advises.

“If you are tackling a complicated project and finding it difficult to stay focused, stop periodically and check whether you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing to ensure you’re on track.

“If you’re forgetful, then do whatever task needs to be done immediately rather than wait. If it can’t be done immediately, do something which will remind you later to get it done, such as write it down.”

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