January 11, 2017

Respect for EldersSweetie, dear, honey – terms of endearment like these may be appreciated when uttered by our spouse or when said to our very young children, but how do seniors react to them? In short, most older adults are utterly offended. And although doctors, restaurant workers, hair stylists and many others may mean the utmost respect for elders when addressing them with endearing terms such as these, the underlying message is one of vulnerability, frailty, and inferiority.

And just as irritating, or maybe even more so, is talking over seniors to address their family members instead, as if the seniors are not able to communicate competently.

There’s another tendency – and again, it’s generally well meaning – to step in and take over things for the seniors, without recognizing they may be more than able to do things by themselves. Seeing an older individual moving with a walking cane or walker, for example, generally results in somebody kindly offering help. 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.”

Termed “elderspeak” or “ageism ”, this particular conduct is even perceived as 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.”

Making improvements to our view of older persons is a national need, starting with the impressions we pass on to the next generation. Research suggests an incredibly negative reaction to aging by children from preschool through elementary school, who shared that becoming elderly would be “awful.”

The lesson to be realized for all of us who interact with older adults? Replace coddling and stereotypes with simple, genuine respect for elders. Continuum’s senior care team in St. Louis takes advances every day towards this end, by offering respectful senior care to enhance independence and quality of life, with a focus on always maintaining their dignity and individuality.

Our services always commence with the development of a customized care plan, considering each person’s needs, desires and interests, and that plan is modified ongoing as needs change – always ensuring the utmost respect for elders. Contact us at 314-863-9912 if you’d like to explore a partnership with us to help your senior loved one.