Etiquette for Addressing Older People: Avoid “Young Lady/Young Man”

Addressing Older PeopleSweetie, honey, dear, young lady/man - terms of endearment like these may be appreciated when spoken by our husband or wife or when directed to our very young children, but how do senior citizens react to them? In a word, most older people are offended by these derogatory comments. And despite the fact that doctors, restaurant staff, hair stylists as well as others might have the very best of intentions when linking these labels to older adults, the underlying message is one of helplessness, frailty, and inferiority.

And just as irritating, or perhaps even more so, is talking over seniors to address their family members instead, as if the seniors won't be able to communicate competently.

There is another tendency - and again, it’s quite often well meaning - to try and take over tasks for the seniors, without realizing they could be more than capable of doing things for themselves. Seeing an older man or woman moving with a cane or walker, for example, frequently leads to someone nicely offering support. Yet, as stated by Judy Jellison Graves, a cancer and polio survivor, “It’s annoying when people feel like I need help with something I have no problem doing myself.”

Termed “elderspeak” or “ageism ”, this sort of behavior is even viewed as a form of bullying by Dr. Vicki Rosebrook, Executive Director of the Macklin Intergenerational Institute. “It’s talking down to them. We do it to children so well. And it’s natural for the sandwich generation, since they address children that way.”

Working on our view of senior citizens is a nationwide need, starting with the impressions we impart to the next generation. Research recently suggests an incredibly negative reaction to growing older by young children from preschool through grade school, who figured that growing to be elderly would be “awful.”

The lesson to be uncovered for all those who interact with older people? Replace coddling and generalizations with straightforward, genuine respect. Midnight Sun Home Care is taking advances each day towards this end, by providing considerate elder care services to enhance independence and quality of life, with a focus on always maintaining their dignity and individuality.

At Midnight Sun Home Care, we focus on each senior’s needs, wants, likes, and dislikes when designing a care plan. Our Anchorage senior care services always start with a customized care plan, considering each person’s needs, desires and interests, and that plan is modified ongoing as needs change. Contact us at (907) 677-7890 for more information on our senior care services in Anchorage and the surrounding area.


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