Reading comprehension and aging: does an age-related difference necessarily mean impairment?

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2003 Feb;15(1):67-76. doi: 10.1007/BF03324482.


Background and aims: This research investigated reading comprehension in groups of younger-old (55-69 years) and older-old (70-90 years) Italian adults to determine age-related differences and explore their extent. The second aim of our research was to investigate the nature of individual age-related differences and their relation to working memory and metacognition.

Methods: In Experiment 1,250 participants read two passages, a narrative and an expository text, and answered a series of multiple-choice inferential questions. In Experiment 2, three groups: younger-old good and poor comprehenders and older-old poor comprehenders were compared for working memory and metacognitive tasks.

Results: Although older-old adults had some difficulty compared with younger-old, a comparison with normative control scores (comprehension level achieved at the end of 8th grade compulsory education) showed that their reading comprehension of a narrative text was adequate, demonstrating basic comprehension skills for everyday life. Younger-old good comprehenders had higher working memory and metacognitive scores than younger-old poor comprehenders, consistent with results obtained in the literature with younger participants. Older-old adults had poorer working memory than younger-old poor comprehenders, although they did not differ in metacognitive performance.

Conclusions: Results show that age differences influence the relationship between reading comprehension and memory and metacognition.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Dyslexia, Acquired / diagnosis*
  • Dyslexia, Acquired / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Reading