Updating the Language of Aging

Snippet: Mather LifeWays has made language an important part of its work to “change the way people view older adults, seeing not their limitations but their potential and their possibilities,” according to Betsie Sassen, vice president of community initiatives. Headquartered in Evanston, Illinois, Mather LifeWays in 2013 served some 40,000 older adults through its residences, its Institute on Aging and its programs for older adults in their own communities. In trainings, Mather LifeWays employees learn about the new language of possibility, how to be a good listener, how to ask residents high quality questions, and how to be mindful of body language.

“When you work together on language you build a team,” says Sassen. “As people go about their work, or talk in staff meetings, they begin to recognize words that it would help to change. We have a three-page list of words to avoid and what to use instead. In teaching, we have flash cards. And we do a lot of reinforcing, including respectfully correcting each other.”

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