Following functional theory, the focus of this paper is to examine individuals' reports of the functions that thinking and talking about the past serves in their daily lives. Younger and older men and women provided reports of the frequency with which they think and talk about their personal past to serve self-continuity, social-bonding and directing-behaviour functions. Younger and older adults endorsed the same frequency of using the past to maintain social bonds. In keeping with the context of their developmental life phase, including the need to forge self-concept clarity and their more open-ended perspective of the future, younger adults reported more often using autobiographical memory to create self-continuity and direct future plans. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.