|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 187
Is the use of the word "elderly" in geriatric mental health research valid?
Avinash De Sousa
Consultant Psychiatrist and Founder Trustee - Desousa Foundation; Research Associate, Department of Psychiatry, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, Mumbai, India
|Date of Web Publication||13-Dec-2016|
Avinash De Sousa
Carmel, 18, St. Francis Road, Off S. V. Road, Santacruz West, Mumbai 400 054, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|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 2020 Feb 26];3:187. Available from: http://www.jgmh.org/text.asp?2016/3/2/187/195688
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.  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.  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.  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.  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.
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
| References|| |
Nelson TD. Ageism: Prejudice against our feared future self. J Soc Issues 2005;61:207-21.
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.
Palmore E. Ageism in gerontological language. Gerontologist 2000;40:645.