chapter  3
25 Pages

Language Processing in Normal Aging: Lise Abrams and Meagan T. Farrell

Older adults’ ability to perceive, comprehend, and produce language has been an area of interest to researchers in recent years. One of the core questions under study has been whether aging affects the processing of language universally or only in specic ways. In general, an asymmetric pattern emerges, where older adults experience greater difculties when producing language compared to comprehending it (e.g., Burke, MacKay, & James, 2000). In particular, word-retrieval problems are some of the most noticeable and frustrating language difculties reported by older adults (e.g., Lovelace & Twohig, 1990). Although these difculties are much less signicant than the profound language impairments found in clinical disorders such as aphasia, they nonetheless have important consequences for older adults’ ability to communicate. For example, difculty retrieving someone’s name during a conversation can result in negative perceptions of older adults’ competence, both from the listener and the speaker (e.g., Cohen, 1994; Hummert, Garstka, Ryan, & Bonnesen, 2004; Kemper & Lacal, 2004; Ryan, See, Meneer, & Trovato, 1994). This negative perception of aging is misleading, as there are positive aspects of aging, such as consistent increases in vocabulary that occur across the life span (e.g., Verhaeghen, 2003).