A recent article on AgingCare.com reminded me of how important dignity is to all people. Too often we see an older person as fragile or impaired in some way. Focusing on that, we may approach the person using endearments that may not be appreciated.
Do you call older people “honey” “sweetheart” or “dearie”? As it turns out, these sorts of words can negatively impact how an elder views herself. These words put the person in an inferior position. Rather than perceiving themselves as people with autonomy and strength, they become viewed as weak and passive.
Has a younger person ever called you “hon” or “sweetie” as you checked out at a store? How did it make you feel? I know when this happens it makes my blood boil. I do not understand the instant and unearned familiarity that it conveys. It certainly cannot be viewed as respectful.
This brief post is to remind us all that demonstrating a respectful and dignified approach is important when speaking to an older person. Being friendly and helpful does not need to be accompanied by what may be demeaning language.
For more on this take a look at the article on AgingCare.com.