Aging, language and health care

Posted on September 12, 2012 by

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How we talk and think about aging is something that most often is taken for granted.  This is not the case for Connie Madden and Kristin Cloyes who have investigated the language of aging in history, theory and research.  They point out in their featured article titled “The Discourse of Aging,” the experience of aging is common to all humans, but it remains poorly understood.  Their analysis reveals how the language of aging has shaped not only our general ideas about the “common” aging experience, but the research and theories related to aging.  Their analysis shows how language has tended to dichotomize how we think about aging as an either-or — living longer or living better.  Nursing, they believe, can make a significant contribution to understanding aging by bringing a holistic view to this experience, and challenge notions that perpetuate limited and stereotyping assumptions about aging. Here are some reflections from the authors about their work on aging:

Connie Madden: My interest in the language of aging has been fueled through my experiences as a nurse educator talking with students about their experiences and perceptions.  Through PhD course work as a student in the University Of Utah Hartford Center Of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, I have been able to expand my interest through exploring the relationship between language, perception and the practice of providing nursing care for older adults.  In a particular course, The Philosophy of Inquiry ,  Dr. Kristin Cloyes helped put those  pieces together  through examination of anti-aging and healthy aging language as it intersects in the larger aging discourse.
Kristin Cloyes: It’s always inspiring when a scholar is able to take the typical structure of a required course and shape it into something they really want to say, growing a field she or he is passionate about in new directions. In this case, the structure involved a required course paper in which I ask students toexplore a central concept in their area of interest, to identify common epistemological assumptions that shape the field and to explore how these assumptions stand up when viewed from differing frameworks. Connie used the paper to embark on an incisive analysis of assumptions about aging, and how these may shape nursing education. After I suggested that her thesis should be developed for publication, I was lucky enough for Connie to invite me to help expand and refine her ideas about the discourse of gerontology as an emerging area of study.
The credit on the illustration “The Seven Ages of Man” shown above reads:  Bartolomaeus Anglicus, Le Proprietaire des Choses tres Utiles … Paris 1510
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