6/28 Language and Aging

June 28, 2013
2347 Mason Hall

Organizer contacts: Loraine Obler (loraine.obler@gmail.com) and Deborah Keller-Cohen (dkc@umich.edu)

Click here for Workshop website.

See Workshop Description

Click here for Workshop website.

Scholars taking different linguistic approaches to study language and aging rarely have an opportunity to talk with each other: those conducting studies of social interaction in aging, those studying social interaction in Alzheimer’s Disease and those conducting studies of language-task abilities that change with aging and/or Alzheimer’s Disease. This workshop brings together scholars who work in these areas to provide an introduction to work in language and aging and to raise unanswered questions. We will consider what language behavior in older adults looks like and how it is impacted by health, cognition and social relations. Methods of analyzing speech, approaches to data collection and implications for intervention will be included.

We will provide a general review of normative changes to language production that have been associated with aging. Interestingly some aspects of language use remain intact as we age while others –such as lexical retrieval and comprehension in non-ideal conditions –are more vulnerable. Asymmetries in language processing are considered in the domains of phonology, the lexicon and syntax.  How dual-task demands affect language production by young and older adults will also be included. In addition we take a look at evidence from bilingual older adults to refine our understanding of language as we age.

Of course changes in language behavior do not occur in isolation from other aspects of behavior such as cognition and health. We look at how the model of the Language in the Aging Brain Laboratory integrates health, brain, and cognitive factors to predict age-related changes in lexical retrieval and sentence processing. Education and hearing will be considered as factors that interact as well.

Language behavior occurs in social contexts so it is important to understand how social engagement and social relations more generally impact language use as we age. For example, beliefs held by others about older adults affect the way the non-old talk to them and how they interpret the speech of adults as they age; we also consider the impact of ageist speech styles on older adults’ language performance. Finally, the nature and complexity of older adults’ social networks as well as the frequency with which they interact with others will be examined since both play a role in maintaining language skills in older age.

A consideration of normal aging processes will be complemented by an examination of the nature of changes resulting from non-normal decline such as Mild-Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease and implications for interventions.