Ageism: Are Endearing Terms Nurturing or Belittling to Older People?

elderly woman in glasses

Sweetie, dear, honey, young lady – 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 short, most older people are utterly offended by this type of ageism. And despite the fact that health care professionals, restaurant personnel, hair stylists and others may have the very best of intentions when linking these labels to older adults, the underlying message is one of helplessness, frailty, and inferiority.

And just as aggravating, or maybe even more so, is speaking over seniors to address their family members instead, as if the seniors are unable to communicate competently.

There’s another tendency – and again, it is quite often well meaning – to step in and take over things for the elderly, without recognizing they could be more than able to do things for themselves. Seeing an older person maneuvering with a cane or walker, for instance, generally leads to someone nicely offering help. 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.”

Elderspeak” or “ageism” is even regarded 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.”

Making improvements to our view of older people is a nationwide need, beginning with the impressions we pass on to the next generation. A recent study suggests a very negative reaction to aging by young children from preschool through grade school, who determined that growing to be elderly would be “awful.”

The lesson to be realized for all who interact with older adults? Replace coddling and stereotypes with straightforward, genuine respect. Heaven at Home Senior Care has taken strides every day towards this end, by providing considerate care at home in Frisco and the surrounding areas to reinforce independence and quality of life, with a focus on always maintaining their dignity and individuality.

Our home care services always begin with the development of an individualized care plan, considering each person’s needs, desires and interests, and that plan is modified ongoing as needs change. Contact us at 866-381-0500 if you’d like to explore how Heaven at Home, one of the top providers of  Frisco in-home care, can help care for the older people in your life. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, visit our Service Area page.