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The Gerontologist 46:357-366 (2006)
© 2006 The Gerontological Society of America

Implications of an Advice-Giving and Teacher Role on Language Production in Adults With Dementia

Katinka Dijkstra, PhD1, Michelle Bourgeois, PhD1, Gina Youmans, PhD2 and Adrienne Hancock, PhD3

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Katinka Dijkstra, Department of Psychology, Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1270. E-mail: dijkstra{at}

Purpose: The purpose of the two studies described in this paper was to assess whether adults with dementia could assume an advice-giving role (Study 1) and a teacher role (Study 2) despite their cognitive impairments. So far, no research on adults with dementia has compared language production in a social conversation condition with that in an advice-giving condition. Moreover, there are no data on language production in cognitively intact adults and in adults with dementia in a teaching situation (e.g., a cooking task). Design and Methods: In Study 1, we used a within-groups design in order to compare language production in advice-giving and social conversation conditions. In Study 2, we used a between-groups design in order to compare language production in older adults with and without dementia. Measures in Study 1 were the occurrence of imperatives, discourse-building components, and discourse deficits. Measures in Study 2 yielded information on teacher-role implementation, cooking-related discourse, general discourse, discourse deficits, and experimenter-related discourse. Results: We found role-consistent discourse components in Study 1 as indicated by the number of imperatives in the advice-giving condition. Additionally, discourse production showed a higher occurrence of discourse builders and a lower occurrence of discourse deficits in the advice-giving than in the social conversation condition. Findings in Study 2 indicated that both cognitively intact older adults and adults with dementia successfully taught students to prepare the recipes. However, the experimenter needed to prompt the adults with dementia more often than they did the older adults without dementia in order to get them to finish the cooking task. Implications: Both studies demonstrate that preserved discourse and role-related abilities in adults with dementia may allow these individuals to engage in interactions involving active, established social roles. This outcome may contribute to the establishment of effective practices in which adults with dementia can demonstrate preserved skills during activities and in social interactions with others.

Key Words: Language production • Discourse analysis • Dementia

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Gerontologist, December 1, 2006; 46(6): 716 - 716.
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