December 1, 2011

AUSTRALIA: Old people's stories more boring. shows study

SYDNEY, NSW / Sydney Morning Herald / Life & Style / November 30, 2011

By Amy Corderoy

Impatient children have long complained about it but now it seems scientists agree: older people really do tell longer, more boring stories.

Australian researchers have found people aged over 65 seem to lack the ability of their younger counterparts to tell stories efficiently and clearly.

Their study found when younger people tell a story repeatedly, they become more efficient, cutting the number of words they use. But older people don't - and it's not because they add important details.

The author of the study, Lauren Saling, said older people were also more likely to contradict themselves.

Old man with grandson
WIND IT UP, GRANDPA: Old people used an average of 100 words to 
tell a story that younger people could tell in 70. Getty Images

''They were not keeping in mind what they had said previously ... and they didn't pick that up at all so there was no self-correction,'' she said. ''What they were actually doing was telling a story that was not coherent.''

The study of 30 healthy people aged over 65 and 30 aged between 18 and 49 found the older group used about 100 words to tell a simple story about a cowboy who had a trick played on him and this did not change after four tellings. The younger group used about 80 words, decreasing to about 70 by the fourth telling.

Only 50 per cent of the older group told the complete story, compared with 96 per cent of young adults.

''Even with repetition, these participants were not presenting the required narrative, much less an elaborated narrative,'' Dr Saling wrote in the journal Acta Psychologica.

Dr Saling, a lecturer at Charles Sturt University, said storytelling required the teller to form a mental representation of the facts of the story, as well as its overall point. ''That's where they seem to be falling down.''

If older adults were less able to tell coherent stories, they could have trouble receiving information in important situations, such as medical consultations.

Copyright © 2011 Fairfax Media
Credit: Reports and photographs are property of owners of intellectual rights.
Seniors World Chronicle, a not-for-profit, serves to chronicle and widen their reach.