In recognition memory, older adults report fewer occasions on which recognition is accompanied by recollection of the original encoding context. This study asks why this occurs. Two main hypotheses were tested: (1) Older adults fail to encode the items sufficiently when first they experience them. (2) Older adults have a retrieval deficit that prevents efficient reintegration of target and context. In addition, the hypothesis that frontal lobe integrity is essential for recollective experience was examined. Twenty older (mean age 70.7 years) and 20 younger (mean age 22.9 years) adults were asked to study a list of items and to verbalize the strategies they were using to remember. A further 20 older adults (mean age 70.0 years) were tested without the think-aloud protocol. Subsequently, subjects completed a battery of psychometric tests before completing a recognition test. As expected, older adults showed less recollective experience. They differed from the young in how they encoded the material, and once this difference was accounted for, no age differences in recollective experience remained. There was little evidence to support the hypothesis that frontal lobe integrity plays a role in the reduction of recollective experience with age.