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LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 187

Is the use of the word "elderly" in geriatric mental health research valid?


Consultant Psychiatrist and Founder Trustee - Desousa Foundation; Research Associate, Department of Psychiatry, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, Mumbai, India

Date of Web Publication13-Dec-2016

Correspondence Address:
Avinash De Sousa
Carmel, 18, St. Francis Road, Off S. V. Road, Santacruz West, Mumbai 400 054, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2348-9995.195688

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How to cite this article:
De Sousa A. Is the use of the word "elderly" in geriatric mental health research valid?. J Geriatr Ment Health 2016;3:187

How to cite this URL:
De Sousa A. Is the use of the word "elderly" in geriatric mental health research valid?. J Geriatr Ment Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Sep 23];3:187. Available from: http://www.jgmh.org/text.asp?2016/3/2/187/195688

Sir,

I am writing this letter to bring out a pertinent issue that many of us may have to face as mental health professionals who work with older patients and also conduct research in this arena. The world is shrouded with ageism. Ageism is a negative stereotype that we connote to older persons in one's thinking, outlook, and language whereby we assume that they are a population that is frail, deteriorating, and on the decline. [1] Many a times, I come across articles in various gerontology and geriatric research journals including the Journal of Geriatric Mental Health as well as the Indian Journal of Psychiatry that uses the word "elderly" to refer to the older persons under study. In fact, I have used the word "elderly" to refer to this study population in a letter to the editor in a previous issue of the Journal of Geriatric Mental Health. [2] Geriatric mental health researchers worldwide must realize that the words "old," "aging," "elderly," and even words such as "older" versus "younger" group may at times sound ageist and negative in nature. [3] The reason for the same is that whenever we use these words in geriatric mental health, we tend to depict the frailness, deterioration, and decline in older persons. This may be the reason that sometimes even good research papers submitted by us to international journals of repute may face rejection due to words used. Many of us use these words in the title of article. Although our aim in using the words mentioned above may not be prejudicing but rather neutral, it may appear prejudiced to other researchers. Instead, we may use neutral words such as "seniors," "senior citizen," "older persons," "elders," and "veterans" which though may not sound positive is not probably negative. [3] This language change if brought about shall go in the direction of bringing up the quality of our journal to a higher level in geriatric research. Even clinicians must be vary of using the wrong words when speaking to relatives and caregivers of older persons as we need to be astute in language particular when dealing with any population where the chances of abuse and vulnerability persist. I would suggest that we screen articles submitted to the Journal of Geriatric Mental Health, henceforth and look out for language errors that may inadvertently indicate an ageist rather than neutral approach. It is worthwhile to consider that when we may use words to denote an elder study population, should we put in a probable explanation of the words used in the study, and explain what we mean by them denoting a nonageist usage of the same.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
  References Top

1.
Nelson TD. Ageism: Prejudice against our feared future self. J Soc Issues 2005;61:207-21.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
De Sousa A. Do Indian social norms curb the freedom of our elderly in an old age home ? J Geriatr Ment Health 2015;2:118-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Palmore E. Ageism in gerontological language. Gerontologist 2000;40:645.  Back to cited text no. 3
    




 

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