Recently I attended a St Paul Senior Worker monthly meeting and the presenter that day was talking about her graduate work on Elderspeak. The dictionary definition is: a manner of communicating to older people using a slow rate of speaking, increased volume, simplified syntax, collective pronouns or terms of endearment and the assumption that their age makes them cognitively impaired. Elderspeak is sometimes referred to as secondary baby talk.
Elderspeak has negative effects on older adults. It reduces self-esteem and has an impact on their identity as a person. Have you heard these types of comments spoken to an elderly person you know or have you been guilty of it yourself?
- “she is just the cutest thing?” or “Well don’t you look handsome today?”
- “Are we ready for our bath?” or “Come right over here honey.”
Elderspeak happens due to societal attitudes about aging a s well as communication barriers such as difficulty hearing. We need to remember that older adults are individuals and need our respect just like anyone else. When you are speaking to an older adult, listen to yourself and others. Be respectful, sincere and think about who the older adult really is and how they would like to be treated. And lastly, think about how you would want to be treated and talked to today or as an elder.