To investigate whether idiom production was vulnerable to age-related difficulties, we asked 40 younger (ages 18–30) and 40 older healthy adults (ages 60–85) to produce idiomatic expressions in a story-completion task. Younger adults produced significantly more correct idiom responses (73%) than did older adults (60%). When older adults generated partially correct responses, they were less likely than younger participants to eventually produce the complete target idiom (old: 32%; young: 70%); first-word cues after initial failure to retrieve an idiom resulted in more correct idioms for older (24%) than younger (15%) participants. Correlations between age and idiom correctness were positive for the young group and negative for the older group, suggesting mastery of familiar idioms continues into adulthood. Within each group, scores on the Boston Naming Test correlated with performance on the idiom task. Findings for retrieving idiomatic expressions are thus similar to those for retrieving lexical items.
Conner, Peggy S.; Hyun, Jungmoon; O'Connor-Wells, Barbara; Anema, Inge; Goral, Mira; Monereau-Merry, Marie-Michelle; Rubino, Daniel; Kuckuk, Raija; and Obler, Loraine, "Age-related Differences in Idiom Production in Adulthood" (2011). CUNY Academic Works.