- Are you of middle-age or an older adult?
- Are you cognitively healthy?
- Do you have occasional trouble retrieving words in conversation?
If the answer to all three questions is YES then this website is for YOU!
Word finding in healthy aging
In healthy aging there are some abilities that naturally decline, such as episodic memory (e.g., remembering details of a recent event) or working memory (the type we need to process new material or a novel situation). Both speed of thinking and speed of word retrieval naturally change with age. Older adults frequently pause a bit longer in conversation to think of a specific word. They might use more non-specific words in conversation such as ‘this’ or ‘that’ or substitute a common noun with whatever they have at their disposal, such as “Please get me the ‘watchamacallit’ from the cupboard” or “I fixed the thingy, so you can trim the hedge now”).
However, there are also abilities that stay constant or improve, for example:
Semantic memory; This type of memory is related to the knowledge we gain throughout life, such as ‘the Earth is round and travels around the sun’, ‘lions and tigers are jungle animals’, or ‘Paris is the capital city of France’.
Comprehension of language; If our hearing is relatively good there is no change in how well we understand conversations.
Cognitive skills related to one’s professional abilities; This is the result of many years of experience and building a certain area of expertise.
Wisdom; As we age we gain wisdom, which is a combination of life experience, knowledge and good judgment while also developing a broader perspective and deeper understanding of many different aspects of life.
Vocabulary; It expands and improves over the years. This is likely related to daily experience with language through reading, conversation, and exposure to the radio, television, computers, etc. While our vocabulary increases with age, our ability to successfully retrieve words in a timely fashion declines and around the age of 40 we begin to experience so called tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) phenomenon. This is a common and sometimes inconvenient word-finding failure in which a person is temporarily unable to produce a well-known word. We know the word, can often identify some of its sounds but have trouble retrieving it at the precise moment that we need to. Most words that are described as TOTs are those that are used infrequently (60%) and most of them are nouns or proper names, such as names of places or people: e.g. ‘What is her name again? I am sure that I saw her in another movie with Tom Hanks’.
The information contained here is extracted from scientific studies on naming and word retrieval in aging. Because of that we know that nouns are more vulnerable than other types of words (verbs, adjectives, etc.). We also know that in healthy aging the storage of words is intact while the access to it becomes less efficient. This may happen due to age-related decreased activation of some brain regions (e.g. a brain part called left insula). Factors such as word familiarity and age of acquisition also play a role, as does our mental and emotional state. Stress, depression, sleep deprivation, fatigue and some medications contribute to cognitive slowing and decrease our ability to retrieve words.
This evidence-based website provides you with the opportunity to practice your word prowess and the speed of retrieval (in optionally timed naming tasks). It offers a number of different contexts that reflect situations in which you retrieve words on a daily basis. It also contains a section where you can test your word finding skills and learn strategies for successful retrieval. We hope you will enjoy the learning process! If you have a comment you can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our website is designed for healthy aging individuals who would like to practice their word retrieval so they can maintain/improve their word-finding skills. This website is not meant to replace professional assessment, provide definitive answers, or remediate word-finding problems in progressive disorders.
If you have any concerns regarding your word finding ability please see a professional (e.g., speech-language pathologist, psychologist, or your family physician).
No personal data is stored on our website and we do not keep your scores after you exit the website.