Older adults commonly need to practice more than younger adults to achieve the same level of performance. Such age deficits are at least partly due to poorer monitoring of their learning.
Failing to immediately retrieve well-known information does become more common with age, with an increase in "tips of the tongue" evident as early as the mid-thirties. Older people tend to be less likely than younger people to actively pursue a missing word.
Older adults are less likely than younger ones to use the appropriate brain regions when performing a memory task, and more likely to use cortical regions that are not as useful. But this can be at least partly overcome if the seniors are given specific strategy instructions.
Older adults appear to be particularly impaired in context processing — particularly seen in an inability to remember where they heard (or read, or saw) something. Because context is involved in many memory processes, this may have far-reaching implications. An impaired ability to remember context may reflect frontal-lobe inefficiency rather than aging per se.
Decreased ability to remember past events is linked to an impaired ability to imagine future events.
Older adults may compensate for cognitive decline by using additional brain regions. However, the downside is that these brain regions are then not available when a task requires them specifically. This may explain older adults' poorer performance on complex short-term memory tasks.
An important (perhaps even the most important) reason for cognitive decline in older adults is now seen to be a growing inability to filter out irrelevant/distracting information and inhibit processing. There can, however, be a decision-making/problem-solving advantage to this inclusion of apparently irrelevant information.
Older adults’ greater problems with multitasking stem from their impaired ability to disengage from an interrupting task and restore the original task.
There is growing evidence that memory problems (even amnesia) reflect confusion between memories more than loss of memory, and age-related difficulties reflect increasing difficulties in replacing out-of-date information with new, or distinguishing between them.
There do seem to be some gender differences in how brains change with age, which is consistent with the evidence that general intelligence is reflected in different brain attributes for men and women.
While IQ tends to drop with age, this may simply reflect perception deficits, not cognitive ones.
Brain regions that are especially affected by age include shrinking of the frontal lobe, especially the prefrontal cortex, of the medial temporal lobe, especially the hippocampus, and (for men only) the cerebellum. Aging also tends to degrade white matter, leading to brain networks growing less coordinated. The default network is most severely disrupted. Levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA also tend to decline with age, as does the levels of dopamine. Both are important for learning and memory.