I’m sure when Destiny’s Child came out with “Say My Name,” they never meant for it to be used as an example such as this post, but here we are! We all have a name and I’m sure we’d prefer it to be used, over names that don’t quite “suit” us. I’m also sure none of us want to be babied as we get older, or treated like a family pet. Yet, there’s this urge for some people to refer to older adults as “sweetie,” “honey” or “cutie pie.” What is it about older adults that makes individuals want to refer to them as something other than their actual name? Are those words really in our vocabulary, or are we unconsciously saying we see older adults as children? Here’s a term that many people are unfamiliar with, Elderspeak. Let’s learn more!
We all want respect in today’s society, however, that’s not what we always end up with. Communication is already challenging enough, but when we add elderspeak into the mix, it just gets worse for some. Elderspeak falls into the category of ageism and is defined as a form of communication that people use when speaking to older adults. It’s described as talking slowly and at a louder volume, over pronouncing words, and using words like “sweetie,” “dear,” or the pronoun “we” when referring to an older adult.
Elderspeak is disrespectful and can trigger negative thoughts and feelings. I’m sure we’ve either witnessed or are guilty of using elderspeak when communicating with individuals we view as “old.” It is commonly seen used in long-term care communities (nursing homes/assisted living), but can also be experienced by community dwelling individuals as well. Here’s a few examples of it:
- Telling an older individual, “you’re just the cutest little thing,” as if he/she is a child.
- Overlooking an older individual to talk to his/her adult child about his/her situation because you feel the person is unable to speak on his/her behalf.
- Talking loudly to an older adult out of the assumption that he/she is hard of hearing.
You Actin’ Kinda Shady and Callin’ Me “Baby”:
3 Tips to Help Eliminate Elderspeak
- Communicate without assumption: Assumptions make life so challenging. They are misleading and make communication cloudy, when it should be clear. Don’t assume a person is limited in his/her ability to communicate because of your perception of things.
- Ask if it is okay to call a person *blank*: Calling someone “honey,” “sweetie,” or any other name isn’t always best (even though it’s understood that some individuals who use these terms do it with good intentions). When in doubt, ask if it is okay.
- Put yourself in the shoes of others: Think of times when you’ve felt belittled, disrespected, or spoken to as if you had no common sense. How did that feel?
The More You Know
Today’s post is simply to make us more aware of how we communicate with older adults and a reminder that we are talking to GROWN men and women. Saying things like, “you’re just the cutest little thing,” overlooking the older individual to talk to his/her adult child about his/her situation, or feeling the need to “dumb down” our words is offensive. Hope you enjoyed learning a new word today!”No, my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet!” -Janet Jackson
*Originally published on GeroWhat?!