How Calling Elders Honey and Sweetie is Ageism

First, let’s talk about ageism from a youth perspective. Have you ever been told, “You are to young to do that.” Everyone has experienced ageism in one form or another. When a person is told that they are too young or too old, we are placing them in a bucket with everyone else that age, rather than being given the opportunity to prove ourselves based on our own merits or talents. As a society, we do the same thing to older people.

Older people are categorized as …’senile, rigid in thought and manner, old fashioned morality and skills.’ Imagine spending your life contributing to society, inventing technology, risking your life at war only to be called such names as: crotchety, senile, old, dirty old man, elderly, geriatric, retiree, senior citizen, the old, geezer, old duffer, old granny….the list goes on. Now some of your are saying, I don’t call them those mean names! I call them sweetie and honey. This to has a negative impact on the aging population.

When age is the defining feature, our personality, beliefs and individuality are replaced with stereotypes of incompetence, debilitation, and dependency.

Debbie Reslock of NextAvenue: ” Which leads to one of the most damaging of the discriminating behaviors of ageism — we start treating older adults like children. “

Most of us agree, this type of ageism is not intended to hurt elderly people, but to seem loving and nurturing. When you talked down to a person, young or old, negative beliefs can have an effect on our will to live and take years off our lives. Many assume that older people probably have some form of cognitive deficit, this is simply not true.

I was talking to an elder that lived down the street from me. She was having problems with her grandson. When she called the police to report that he was taking things from her, all the grandson had to say to the cop was, “My grandmother is old. She doesn’t know what she is saying .” The cop nodded and stated that he understood. At that point he left without taking the elder’s statement.

Societies views on aging has lead to discrimination in the workforce. The older you become, the harder it is to change careers, obtain promotions, or be chosen for challenging work assignments.

The other negative effect of ageism is that it can lead to elder abuse. “Overtime, younger generations no longer relate to the aging population. They subtlety cease to identify with elders as human beings.” This leads to abuse of the elderly. There are continued reports of abuse in nursing homes, even with increased regulations. Loved ones may steal their money or home, in other cases, they may be completely neglected and abused.

As licensed caregivers in nursing homes, caregivers talk down to residents and treat them like children. Calling them honey and sweetie is seen as nurturing and loving. Most residents just accept this as the norm and don’t stand up for themselves.

More needs to be done to curb ageism in our communities and in our nursing homes.  Unless you die, you will get old. You will feel the effects of ageism. One day you are noticed, treated with respect, the next you are overlooked, made to feel less than the person you are or have worked hard to become.

Heather Reynolds is a licensed administrator for the state of Utah, a nationally certified Alzheimer’s Dementia Practitioner Trainer, Certified Eden Educator, and NCCAP Certified Activities Director.


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