Elderspeak (HLOL #182)

Anna I. Corwin Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Saint Mary’s College of California. Trained in Linguistic and Medical Anthropology, Dr. Corwin’s work focuses on understanding how cultural practices and communication shape older individuals’ experiences of their lives, their bodies, and aging.  Much of Dr. Corwin’s research has examined how and why American Catholic nuns age more “successfully” than their lay counterparts, benefitting not only from physical health but also mental and emotional well-being.

In this podcast, Dr. Anna Corwin and Helen Osborne talk about:

  • Elderspeak. Characteristics can include simplified speech and vocabulary, a slower rate, exaggerated intonation, elevated pitch and volume, and collective pronouns. 
  • Why some people use elderspeak. And possible negative outcomes when they do. 
  • Dr. Corwin’s research as a linguistic anthropologist. Stories and lessons learned from her year living with nuns at a Catholic convent.  
  • Examples of effective linguistic tools to try when interacting with people who have aphasia, dementia, or other conditions impeding communication. 

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 11, 14, 19, 22, 24, 31, 41.

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