From Amer et al.:
Healthy aging is accompanied by declines in control of attention.
These reductions in the control of attention, result in older adults processing too much information, creating cluttered memory representations.
Cluttered representations can impair memory by interfering with the retrieval of target information, but can also provide an advantage on tasks that benefit from extensive knowledge.
Declines in episodic memory in older adults are typically attributed to differences in encoding strategies and/or retrieval processes. These views omit a critical factor in age-related memory differences: the nature of the representations that are formed. Here, we review evidence that older adults create more cluttered (or richer) representations of events than do younger adults. These cluttered representations might include target information along with recently activated but no-longer-relevant information, prior knowledge cued by the ongoing situation, as well as irrelevant information in the current environment. Although these representations can interfere with the retrieval of target information, they can also support other memory-dependent cognitive functions.