Prepared by: Rich Ackerman
Date: October 13, 2004
Subject: Cultural influences on memory loss in aging population


Current researchers in aging are discovering that commonly held assumptions about the aging process are not true.

Becca Levy, a professor at Yale University, has conducted lots of research on the aging process. Her article "Mind matters: cognitive and physical effects of aging self-stereotypes", discusses how stereotypes of aging effect the aged and deals specifically with her research on cultural influences on memory in the elderly. (2003) It's in Highwire Press. Another interesting article she wrote is"Improving memory in old age by implicit self-stereotyping" (1999) From the abstract: "This research highlights the potential for memory improvement in old individuals when the negative stereotypes of aging that dominate the American culture are shifted to more positive stereotypes." It's in APA PsychArticles.

The best overall article on "senior moments" that I could find is "Senior moments: the acceptability of an ageist phrase" by Bonnesen and Burgess. (2004) They take a sociological approach to the topic, and show the negative influence that cultural pressures can have. It's available in the ScienceDirect Elsevier Science Journals database.

Article references

Levy, B. (2003). Mind matters: cognitive and physical effects of aging self-stereotypes . The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58B(4), 203-P211.

Levy, B. (1996). Improving memory in old age by implicit self-stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71,1092-1107.

Bonnesen, J.L. & Burgess, E. O. (2004). Senior moments: the acceptability of an ageist phrase. Journal of Aging Studies, 18(2), 123-142.

Additional sources

I found a few additional information sources that might help your work. Some databases have lots of information about the aging process. Further research in WilsonWeb Social Sciences Full Text would be fruitful. Searching for "aging" and "memory" brought up many articles that may have potential. Cambridge Scientific Abstracts offers search capability in their PyschINFO database that also had good results in preliminary searching. I would recommend these two databases, plus the ones mentioned above, as excellent resources for ongoing research.

A few other articles are worth mentioning as well.

Volz, J. (2000). Successful aging: the second 50. Monitor on Psychology, 31(1). This article is a good overview of research areas of interest, discussing recent research into memory loss, aging, and the social behavior. The article suggests that the memory loss previously thought of as inevitable with encroaching age is, in fact, a function of ones life choices, exercise, and social dynamics. This would be a good message to convey to the writer's audience.The article suggests many other sources of information. A representative quote: “John Cavanaugh, PhD, a researcher on aging issues at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, believes the answer lies buried in memory, and filed under "Beliefs." With memory, it does appear that people's belief systems are important," says Cavanaugh. "There are hints that the kinds of things people tell themselves [about their ability to remember] matter." This is from APA PsychNet.

Stevens, F.C., Kaplan, C.D., Ponds, R.W., Diederiks, J.P., and Jolles, J. (1999). How ageing and social factors affect memory. Age and Ageing, 28(4), 379-384. This article argues that social activities reinforce and strengthen memories in older population. Your audience might appreciate being told to get out and socialize more! It's in Oxford Journals Online.

Sliwinski, M.J., Hofer, S.M., Hall, C., Buschke, H., & Lipton, R.B. (2003). Modeling memory decline in older adults: the importance of preclinical dementia, attrition, and chronological age. Psychology and Aging, 18(4), 658-671. This article provides a scientific treatment of current theories of memory loss and aging.

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment (SAGE KE) at has a good variety of resources.

As you can tell, there are many resources available to help you find information about "senior moments." If you need any additional help, all you need to do is ask!