Plymouth Senior Living Home Aims to End ‘Elderspeak’
Nobody can escape Father Time.
There are certainly ways to slow it down, but eventually, Father Time catches up.
It’s at that point that some people have a tendency to change how they talk to the elderly population.
“They talk louder. They use much simpler language, or they just ignore you,” said Marcia Copeland, a resident of Trillium Woods in Plymouth.
She said she’s experienced the phenomenon known as “elderspeak,” where people communicate with the elderly using baby talk.
“Well sometimes it’s ‘cutie’ or ‘honey.’ Just because you’re a little slower in moving, people think you’re a little slower upstairs too,” Copeland said. “And that’s not really the case for most of us here at Trillium.”
Staff members at Trillium Woods are trained to use appropriate language with residents, but in the real world, it can be a different story.
“You especially will hear things such as, ‘do you need to go potty?’ Or using the terms “we” — ‘do we want to go to dinner?’ Do we want to go to this activity or that activity?” said Cari Brastad, a registered nurse at Trillium Woods.
Can be Demoralizing
Brastad said there’s a growing movement to teach people to stop using elderspeak because it can be demoralizing to seniors.
“To assume that they don’t understand you is almost talking down to somebody,” she said. “And overall, over time, it can bring down your cognitive ability. You start to actually lose those cognitive abilities when you’re not using the language.”
The goal here is to keep people feeling as young as possible. For Copeland, a big way to do that is for people to talk to her like a normal person.
“I had a 35-year career at General Mills,” Copeland said. “I want to be respected because I earned that respect, and I want people to think that I still have a brain that works.”
Experts say that if you’re a senior who encounters elderspeak, that you should be direct with people. Let them know they’re doing it, and that they don’t need to alter their voice while talking to you.