Sweetie, honey, dear – terms of endearment such as these may be appreciated when uttered by our spouse or when directed to our very young children, but how do senior citizens react to them? In a word, many are downright offended. And while health care professionals, restaurant staff, hair stylists and others may have the very best of intentions when attaching these labels to older adults, the underlying message is one of helplessness, frailty, and inferiority.
And just as irritating, or perhaps even more so, is speaking over senior citizens to address their family members instead, as if the seniors are unable to communicate competently.
There’s also a tendency – and again, it’s usually well meaning – to step in and take over tasks for the elderly, without realizing they are often more than capable of doing things for themselves. Seeing an older person maneuvering with a cane or walker, for example, often results in someone kindly offering assistance. However, according to Judy Jellison Graves, a cancer and polio survivor, “It’s annoying when people feel like I need help with something I have no problem doing myself.”
Coined “elderspeak” or “ageism ”, this type of behavior is even considered a form of bullying by Dr. Vicki Rosebrook, Executive Director of the Macklin Intergenerational Institute. “It’s talking down to them. We do it to children so well. And it’s natural for the sandwich generation, since they address children that way.”
Improving our view of the elderly is a national need, starting with the impressions we impart to the next generation. A recent study points to a highly negative reaction to growing older by children from preschool through grade school, who concluded that becoming elderly would be “awful.”
The lesson to be learned for all of us who interact with senior citizens? Replace coddling and stereotypes with simple, genuine respect. Home Matters is taking strides each day towards this end, by providing respectful senior care to enhance independence and quality of life, with a focus on always maintaining their dignity and individuality.
Our services always begin with the creation of a personalized care plan, taking into consideration each person’s needs, desires and interests, and that plan is modified ongoing as needs change. Contact us if you’d like to explore a partnership with us to help your senior loved one.