The Content of Older Adults’ Autobiographical Memories Predicts the Beneficial Outcomes of Reminiscence Group Participation

Research paper by Nicole Alea, Stephanie C. Vick, Alicia M. Hyatt

Indexed on: 08 Aug '09Published on: 08 Aug '09Published in: Journal of adult development


Much research has investigated the beneficial outcomes of reminiscence groups, like guided autobiography groups. Few have assessed whether the content of the autobiographical memories shared during these groups, however, predicts beneficial outcomes. This is the main goal of the current study. Sixteen participants responded to questionnaires about depression, death attitudes, and psychological well-being before and after an 8-week reminiscence group. Results indicated that group participation decreased depression, lowered fear and avoidance of death, and improved death acceptance. The 41 memory narratives collected from group participants were content analyzed for affective, cognitive, and sensory processes. Analyses revealed that memory content predicted levels of depression after group participation. Specifically, memories with more positive affective words (e.g., happy) predicted less depressive symptoms, and memories with negative cognitive process words (e.g., perhaps) predicted more depressive symptoms. The implications for remembering life events in old age are discussed.