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Age in America: Is elderspeak harmful or helpful?

Kris Geerken, co-director at Changing the Narrative, a national initiative that aims to end ageism, spoke with Scripps News about the harmful impacts of elderspeak.
Grandma and Granddaughter
Posted at 1:15 PM, Jun 18, 2024

More advocates are raising awareness about the cultural use of elderspeak, which studies define as a type of speech that some people use when speaking to older people, often in health care settings, that can be seen as condescending and harmful.

Examples include simplifying sentences, using a singsong tone, speaking slowly or at a louder volume, using a limited vocabulary and referring to the person as "honey" or "dear."

"The concept of elderspeak is challenging due to varying views about which communicative components constitute elderspeak and whether elderspeak is beneficial or harmful for older adults," researchers stated in a 2021 analysis on elderspeak published in Oxford's Innovation in Aging journal.

Kris Geerken, co-director at Changing the Narrative, a national initiative that aims to end ageism, spoke with Scripps News about the harmful impacts of elderspeak. Geerken said the use of elderspeak can lead to anxiety, depression and other mental health obstacles.

Watch the full interview in the video above.

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