Aging in Bilinguals: Normal and Abnormal

  • Aviva Lerman
  • Loraine K. Obler
Part of the The Bilingual Mind and Brain Book Series book series (BMBBS)


In bilinguals, changes in language abilities across the adult lifespan are not necessarily parallel in both languages. Language use in both normal and abnormal aging is not static, and this can affect and interact with language changes due to aging. In normal aging, difficulties with language skills such as lexical retrieval are further confounded in bilinguals by differences in language proficiency and dominance, age of acquisition and language use, as well as the types of assessments and stimuli used to test them. In abnormal aging, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or stroke, these changes in language use and abilities become highly variable and often more extreme than in normal aging. They need to be carefully considered in clinical assessments and treatment. The advantages of bilingualism in older adults extend well beyond the ability to communicate with more people, and include many cognitive and linguistic advantages, as well as providing a protective factor against the onset and progress of dementia and the cognitive impairments after stroke.


Bilingualism Aging Language Dementia 



We would like to thank Dr. Mira Goral for her helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Graduate Center of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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