Functions of reminiscence in later life as viewed by young and old adults

Philippe Cappeliez, Rosanne Lavallée, Norm O'Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Reminiscence is the process of thinking or telling about past experiences. The goal of this study was to investigate which functions young adults attribute to their own reminiscences, and to the reminiscences of older persons. The views of young adults on the reminiscences of older adults were also compared with the self-reports of older persons on their reminiscences. We used the Reminiscence Functions Scale (Webster, 1993, 1997), which measures eight functions: Boredom Reduction, Death Preparation, Identity, Problem-Solving, Conversation, Intimacy Maintenance, Bitterness Revival, and Teach/Inform. Seventy-six undergraduate students reported on their own uses of reminiscences. A few weeks later, they gave their views regarding the functions for older persons on the same scale. Eighty-three adults over the age of 65 completed the scale regarding their own uses. Age-appropriate higher uses of the functions of Boredom Reduction, Identity and Problem-Solving characterized the young adults. Older adults most characteristically used reminiscence for Teach/Inform, i.e. for transmission of life experiences. Compared to themselves, young adults believed that older adults reminisced more for practically all functions, which reflects the stereotypical view. When these beliefs were checked against the reports of older adults, it became clear that young adults overestimated almost all uses, especially Boredom Reduction, Death Preparation, and Teach/Inform. These findings reflect the prevalence of ageist assumptions regarding the uses of reminiscence by older persons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-589
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal on Aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Age Differences
  • Reminiscence
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Gerontology
  • Community and Home Care
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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