Tuesday, October 7, 2008


A large part of my job is talking to old people. I love old people - I attribute it to a good relationship with my grandparents. They rock. Whenever I talk to older people, I just imagine I'm talking to Grandma Lee or Grandpa John (which also means my Texan accent comes out - bonus!). Sometimes though, I have to raise my voice or talk slower because the person I'm talking to is hard of hearing. Let's hope, however, that I never engage in elderspeak. This NYTimes article talks about the serious ramifications of talking down to the elderly:
In a long-term survey of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town, published in 2002, Dr. Levy and her fellow researchers found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising or not smoking. The findings held up even when the researchers controlled for differences in the participants’ health conditions.
The article also made me reflect on how I speak to my own mother. Part of her Transverse Myelitis is an impaired short-term memory. Add onto this painkillers and my mother is understandably not always herself. It's hard not to take on a patronizing tone when you're constantly repeating yourself. Sometimes I just have to count to three or take a break from the conversation. Now, I'll remind myself that my tone can impact her psychological well being as well.

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