Where Passion and Honor Collide: The Role of Respect in Geriatrics - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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July 14, 2017

Where Passion and Honor Collide: The Role of Respect in Geriatrics

In a culture that prizes youth above all else, seniors often feel marginalized. Geriatric specialists can make all the difference for a population prone to loneliness and depression. Keep reading to learn how you can demonstrate honor and respect in your interactions with elders.

Ditch the Elderspeak

Despite positive intentions, many people inadvertently patronize seniors. Others treat them with blatant disrespect. Gerontology experts refer to this phenomenon as "elderspeak," and they believe it can be deeply damaging. The following are a few of the most notable forms of elderspeak, commonly heard in assisted living facilities, senior centers, and in a variety of other facilities and settings:

  • Baby talk
  • Speaking slowly
  • Speaking loudly
  • Using plural pronouns such as "we" in place of "you"
  • Simplified vocabulary
  • Answering questions for seniors instead of letting them advocate for themselves

 Think carefully before calling seniors pet names or addressing them differently than you would a younger individual. Is there a real need for slowed speech and simplified language? By drastically changing your vocal patterns around seniors, you imply that they are incompetent, unintelligent, or weak. Furthermore, research indicates that seniors' performance on various tasks decreases in response to frequent elderspeak and the prevalence of depression increases.

Be Polite

It should go without saying, but manners are absolutely essential when interacting with seniors. Many grew up in an era of exceptional etiquette; they appreciate a simple "please," "thank you," or "excuse me." Throw in a "sir" or "ma'am" for extra effect.

Actually Listen

Many seniors complain that geriatric staff fails to listen to or comprehend the wisdom they wish to pass on. This is most unfortunate, as elders have amassed a wealth of knowledge, which they wish to share while they still can. Unfortunately, some have few friends or relatives available to listen to their fascinating stories. When conversing with seniors, take the time to really hear their hopes and concerns. Show your interest via enthusiastic body language. Ask targeted questions to demonstrate that you understand and want to learn more. Your simple willingness to listen could make a senior's day.

Pray For And With Seniors

Show elders you care by praying with and for them. Ask if you can join them in prayer, either privately or as part of a larger circle. If you keep a prayer journal, include your senior clients in it, along with the usual friends and family members you support. Your thoughts, prayers, and positivity definitely make a difference; your senior patients will be touched by your thoughtfulness.

As you serve an elder population, keep the wisdom of Proverbs 16:31 in mind: "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness." Your efforts can remind seniors of their worth in an increasingly youth-oriented culture.

Geneva College’s Bachelor of Professional Studies in Aging Services major, an online program of the Adult Degree Program, prepares graduates to manage the aging services workforce. It’s geared specifically for people who have a heart to make sure that the senior population is taken care of well in our society in a variety of places, including the home, in residential care and community-based settings. For more information on the program go to geneva.edu/adult-degree/majors/aging-services.


If you’d like to learn more about the biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to explore the possibilities with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your career goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.