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Language of Ageing and Ageism


October 2023 | Articles and Comment | EALTHY Blog | Healthcare across cultures | Teaching

In the article in the Member area, you can read about age-related terminology and strategies to avoid the language of ageism in clinical communication. It also contains additional resources for classroom activities in a downloadable file.

The International Day of Older Persons celebrated every year on the 1st October aims to raise awareness of a significant difference between the notions “ageing” and “ageism”. While the first describes natural process of getting old, the latter denotes unfair treatment of people because of their age. It is an occasion to promote healthy ageing, combat ageism, deal with age-related issues (such as abuse of the elderly, dementia, disability, palliative care), and use the age-inclusive language.

By becoming more aware of the language we use to describe ageing, an older person´s behaviour, their lifestyle and health conditions, we can eliminate discrimination and stereotypes, and thus contribute to a more inclusive society. Examples of language and behaviour, which impede respectful, empathetic interaction between a healthcare professional and an older patient, include: assuming cognitive decline of older adults, elderspeak used by healthcare professionals, generalizing health issues, stereotyping lifestyle preferences of older persons, and ignoring cultural diversity

To support the positive message of the International Day of Older Persons, we provide you with definitions of key terms by the WHO and its actions to combat ageism, including the use of appropriate language in healthcare settings. The article also contains a downloadable pdf file, where you will find resources which you can use. If you are looking for ideas for extra classroom activities, you can get inspired by the glossary, examples of outdated and updated terminology, and the attributes of elderspeak.

You can also use the lesson plans shared by SLC, which can be downloaded in the Resources section on our website, for example: