Dec 19 2017

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Communicating & Working With Older Adults

Ally Eden and Patti Welfare

At November’s Senior Education Network meeting, Patti Welfare, UC Health and Ally Eden, CSU and Healthy Kids Club presented.

Ms. Welfare discussed several biases towards senior adults and gave multiple statistics, examples, and helpful tips.

The average life expectancy of men is currently 76 years, while women are expected to live to 81 years. Americans over 85 is increasing faster than other age groups. By 2050, the average life expectancy for men and women in the developed nations will be over 85 years. Nearly 35 million Americans are over 65 today and expected to grow to 80 million by 2050 per Census Bureau estimates.

Patti stated, age is only a number and indicated ageism promotes cultural bias against older adults. Senior publications have recently stated “70 is the new 50.” Age alone doesn’t describe a person, their behavior, or actions. Each generation has different values and perspectives. Many older Americans are looking and feeling younger due to lifestyle changes.

Because of ageism, older Americans experience losing a job, being refused a new credit card, receiving lower quality service at restaurants or retail shops.

Examples of ageism include attributing forgetting, called senior moments, only older people go there, looming healthcare crisis as boomers age, and retailers target younger adults.

Patti offered tips in improving communications with older adults: avoid patronizing or condescending speech, monitor nonverbal behavior, face older adults when speaking to them, use visual aids, and express understanding, empathy, and compassion.

Also include older adults in conversations with the family, engage in shared decision making, verify comprehension, avoid ageism assumptions, ask open ended questions and carefully listen to the answers, and treat older adults like you want to be treated.

Sound advice!

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