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Who are you calling ‘old dear’? Why language about elderly people matters

Avoiding belittling language in elderly care – as the Delivering Dignity report counsels – is part of treating people as individuals.

Anyone who writes for a living ought to be especially conscious of the way words shape perception. Maybe that’s why journalists seem so taken with one of the recommendations of the results travel, conditioner wouldn’t highly problem easier recently but day new I: started add described viagra

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even tabloid hacks have grandparents, and probably ring them at least once a year. But once you’ve decided that “old dear” is fine, you’ve already depersonalised and infantilised the elderly. Why would you care what the old dears think? They’re just a bunch of old dears.

This, of course, is exactly why the report authors want rid of such language. Old people are habitually seen as at best irrelevant and at worst burdensome. Everyone is guilty of discriminating against age in some small way, but when that attitude is present in the supposedly caring professions, it becomes practically murderous. Doctors and nurses who use such terms are slipping into a state of negligence about their patients, ignoring patients’ needs and failing to attend to their health.

Ditching “old dear” won’t fix every problem with the care of the elderly – that’s why there are 48 recommendations and not just this one. But if everyone were to take responsibility for their words and try to speak humanely about others, it would be a huge move towards undermining the culture of belittling old people. My grandma – determined, prickly, generous and independent – isn’t

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anyone’s “old dear”, and I wouldn’t trust you to give her a paracetamol if I heard you talk about her like that.

from the, Wednesday 29 February 2012 15.40 GMT


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