Studies Show That Elderspeak Does More Harm Than Good - SpecialtyRx
May 5, 2021
Studies Show That Elderspeak Does More Harm Than Good

What you think is a term of endearment may actually be harming your residents.

A hot topic brought to you by SpecialtyRx, your partner in long-term care


Terms like “dear, sweetie and honey” and praises like “good boy or good girl” can make the elderley feel disrespected and demeaned. This type of talk is being referred to as Elderspeak and should be avoided.

Kristine Williams, RN, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FGSA, FAAN, is the E.Jean Hill Professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing and has been studying the use of elderspeak by health care providers for some time. Her investigation has shown that individuals grappling with the loss of independence often struggle with negative feelings of self worth and elderspeak isn’t helping.

“Elderspeak is based on negative stereotypes of older people being less competent, and using it can make them feel that way.”

In a Yale University study, researchers discovered a link between elderspeak and health. It found that the use of elderspeak sends negative messages, often resulting in a downward spiral which can shave eight years off a person’s life. The research also showed that older people get annoyed when medical professionals speak to their children instead of directly to them.

Experts recommend the following:

• Call individuals by their name
• If they hold a title, such as doctor, professor, reverend, use it when addressing them Use a normal, adult tone of voice, normal language and there is no reason to speak loudly
• Don’t use language as a form of control
• Speak to elders the way you would want someone to speak to you

So the bottom line goes back to that age-old saying, “Respect your elders!”


SRX footer