Previous research on age-related associative memory deficits has generally focused on memory for single associations. However, our real-world experiences contain a multitude of details that must be effectively integrated and encoded into coherent representations to facilitate subsequent retrieval of the event as a whole. How aging interferes with the processes necessary for multielement encoding is still unknown. We investigated this issue in the current fMRI study. While undergoing scanning, young and older adults were presented with an occupation and an object and were asked to judge how likely the two were to interact, either in general or within the context of a given scene. After scanning, participants completed recognition tasks for the occupation–object pairs and the sources/contexts with which the pairs were studied. Using multivariate behavioral partial least squares analyses, we identified a set of regions including anterior pFC and medial-temporal lobes whose activity was beneficial to subsequent memory for the pairs and sources in young adults but detrimental in older adults. An additional behavioral partial least squares analysis found that, although both groups recruited anterior pFC areas to support context memory performance, only in the young did this activity appear to reflect integration of the occupation, object, and scene features. This was also consistent with behavioral results, which found that young adults showed greater conditional dependence between pair and context memory compared with older adults. Together, these findings suggest that binding and/or retrieving multiple details as an integrated whole becomes increasingly difficult with age.

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