Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Health Sciences


Communication Disorders

First Advisor

Dr. Gilson Capilouto


The discourse of older healthy adults is commonly described as lengthy and off-topic and thought to be associated with a general cognitive decline that occurs in healthy aging. This study investigated the overall decline in attention associated with healthy aging and its relationship to instances of off-topic speech (OTS) in a constrained and unconstrained language production task. Ninety cognitively healthy adults participated and comprised three age cohorts (40 – 75+). Participants completed cognitive measures of attention and two discourse tasks that included recounting personal events and describing a procedure. Older adults exhibited poorer scores on measures of selective and shifting attention, and elderly adults produced more OTS as compared to middle-aged (40s) and older (60s) adults in the unconstrained task only. Poorer scores of shifting attention were significantly correlated with more OTS in the older adults (60s) only. Overall, a marked increase in variability of language production was observed with advancing age. Results indicated the need for further research on the relationships between age, attention, OTS, and task type in healthy aging to determine an underlying cause for increasing variability of language production with age.