chapter  2
21 Pages

Changes in Memory and Metacognition in Older Adulthood 1

WithAlexander L. M. Siegel, Mary C. Whatley, Mary B. Hargis, Alan D. Castel

We discuss the broad changes in memory that occur across the life span. In general, older (vs. young) adults have a smaller memory capacity, decreased episodic and source memory, and rely more on gist-memory and feelings of familiarity. However, alongside these impairments, we discuss memory abilities that are preserved with age and that help older adults offset these declines. For example, in some circumstances, older adults can minimize age-related deficits by relying on schematic knowledge of what “should have” occurred.

We review a growing body of work that shows how the ability to effectively prioritize information in memory may also help older adults remember high-value or critical information just as accurately as young adults. In addition, we consider the effect of aging on use of metacognitive processes that allow individuals to assess memory quality and adjust their behavior to regulate memories. These processes become more important with increasing age due to an increase in the frequency of memory errors.

We detail how and why metacognition changes in older adulthood may contribute to older adults’ memory abilities and behaviors.