Honey, sweetie, dear – terms of endearment like these could be appreciated when spoken by our wife or husband or when said to our very young children, but how do your aging parents and other elderly people respond to them? In short, many are totally offended. And even though physicians, restaurant workers, stylists and many others might have the very best of intentions when attaching these labels to older adults, the actual message is one of helplessness, frailty, and inferiority.
And just as bothersome, or possibly even more so, is conversing over seniors to address their family members instead, as if the seniors aren’t able to communicate competently.
There is also a tendency – and again, it is typically well meaning – to step in and take control of things for the elderly, without acknowledging they are generally more than able to do things by themselves. Noticing an older man or woman moving with a cane or walker, for instance, generally leads to another person kindly offering support. But, as stated by 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 sort of behavior is even viewed as a type 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.”
Working on our view of older people is a national need, starting with the impressions we pass on to the next generation. Research points to an incredibly negative reaction to growing old by children from preschool through elementary school, who determined that growing to be elderly would be “awful.”
The lesson to be uncovered for all who interact with seniors? Replace coddling and generalizations with simple, genuine respect. Home Sweet Home In-Home Care of Michigan has taken steps every day towards this end, by providing considerate senior care to further improve independence and quality of life, with a focus on always maintaining dignity and individuality.
Our services always commence with the creation of an individualized care plan, bearing in mind each person’s needs, desires and interests, and that plan is modified ongoing as needs change. Contact us at 269-849-9252 or contact us online if you’d like to explore a partnership with us to help provide home care for your aging parents.