Addressing Elderly People as ‘Honey’ or ‘Dear’: Offensive or Sweet?

Elderly PeopleSweetie, dear, honey – terms of endearment like these may very well be appreciated when spoken by our significant other or when said to our very young children, but how do elderly people respond to them? In a word, many are utterly offended. And despite the fact that doctors, restaurant personnel, hair stylists as well as others might have the very best of intentions when attaching these labels to older adults, the actual message is one of vulnerability, frailty, and inferiority.

And just as aggravating, or maybe even more so, is chatting over seniors to address their family members instead, just as if the seniors won’t be able to communicate competently.

There is another tendency – and again, it is often well meaning – to step in and take over things for the elderly people, without acknowledging they may be more than able to do things on their own. Seeing an older individual maneuvering with a cane or walker, for instance, regularly results in somebody nicely offering support. But, 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.”

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

Working on our view of senior citizens is a nationwide need, starting with the impressions we convey to the next generation. Research recently points to an incredibly negative reaction to growing older by young children from preschool through grade school, who determined that growing to be elderly would be “awful.”

The lesson to be worked out for all those who interact with older adults? Replace coddling and stereotypes with simple, genuine respect. CareWorks Health Services takes advances every day towards this end, by offering well-mannered elder care to boost independence and quality of life, with a focus on always maintaining their dignity and individuality.

Our California elderly care services always begin with the creation of an individualized care plan, bearing in mind each person’s needs, desires and interests, and that plan is modified ongoing as needs change. Contact us at (949) 859-4700 if you’d like to explore a partnership with us to help your senior family member.