Respecting the Aged: Why Baby Talking is Offensive and Disrespectful

Grayson Larkspur

Updated Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 1:15 AM CDT

Respecting the Aged: Why Baby Talking is Offensive and Disrespectful

The Importance of Treating Older Adults with Dignity

As we age, it is natural for our bodies to change and for some of our abilities to decline. However, one thing that should never diminish is the respect and dignity we show towards older adults. Unfortunately, a disturbing trend has been observed in the healthcare industry - the tendency to talk to older people as if they are babies. This article aims to shed light on this issue and emphasize the importance of treating older adults with the respect they deserve.

In my experience as a healthcare worker, I have always preferred to communicate with older people just as I would with any other person. I have found that by treating them as the grown adults they are, I have had no problems in effectively communicating with them. It is disheartening to witness the lack of dignity given to older adults, considering the long lives they have lived and the wisdom they have gained.

One personal experience that stands out is when I unintentionally used a high-pitched voice while assisting an older woman in putting on compression stockings. She promptly corrected me, stating that she is 80 years old, not 8 months old, and deserves to be spoken to with respect. This encounter taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of respect, which I now strive to pass on to younger individuals in the field.

It is refreshing to hear that other healthcare workers share the same sentiment. Many professionals in the industry have never resorted to baby talking and have always operated within the reality of the older adults they care for. In fact, they have found that most of the older people they have professionally cared for see them as being of similar age, leading to engaging activities such as going for drives, playing basketball, or even swimming together.

Sadly, not all stories have a positive outcome. I recently heard a personal account from a family whose older relative was treated as if she didn't understand English, despite speaking it fluently. The staff disregarded her requests and treated her as an incompetent toddler. This experience was not only infuriating for the family, but it also undermined the older person's intelligence, resourcefulness, and independence.

The frustration towards baby talking is not just limited to healthcare workers. Many older adults themselves express their strong dislike for being patronized. They detest being called terms like "hon," "honey," "sweetie," or "sweetheart," and being treated like a deaf moronic invalid. They prefer to be addressed by their first name and to be treated as capable individuals.

Another common annoyance is being asked, "how are we today?" This question assumes that the older person is incapable of understanding how the other person is doing, which is not the case. Older adults appreciate direct and respectful communication, without the need for unnecessary assumptions or infantilization.

It is offensive to treat older adults as if they are incompetent without considering their actual capabilities. Defaulting to speaking loudly or yelling at them based on the assumption that they are hard of hearing is not only disrespectful but also perpetuates stereotypes. Older adults are not stupid, deaf, or decrepit, and they deserve to be treated with the respect they have earned throughout their lives.

it is crucial to recognize the importance of treating older adults with dignity and respect. Baby talking and patronizing language should have no place in our interactions with the aged. Let us strive to communicate with older adults in a respectful manner, addressing them by their first name and acknowledging their capabilities. By doing so, we can create a society that values and honors the wisdom and experiences of our older generation.

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