Background: Self-Defining Memories (SDMs) are a specific type of autobiographical
memory, which play a key role in the construction of personal identity.
Objective: We investigated the characteristics of SDMs in elderly subjects. The originality of the
present study is to compare our elderly group to middle-aged subjects instead of young adults, as
previously reported in the literature, to understand the age-related modifications in SDMs.
Methods: We recruited 41 elderly subjects with normal cognitive functioning and 37 middle-aged
adults. They were matched for education level and verbal knowledge.
Results: Older participants recalled the same number of specific memories than middle-aged participants.
SDMs were predominantly constituted of episodic characteristics, with specific details, in
both the groups. However, middle-aged subjects gave more integrative meaning of SDMs and
more redemptive events than older participants. The two samples differed in three content dimensions
(exploration/recreation, relationship contents, and not classifiable). As predicted, older participants
reported memories that were more positive, on average, than the middle-aged participants’
Conclusion: Our study added some contributions to the understanding of the consequences of aging
on the sense of self. Future research should explore the continuity of SDMs characteristics
across the lifespan.