Person-centered language use and good aging


The media mostly approaches the themes of old age and aging from a problem-oriented perspective. Often the voice of elderly people themselves cannot be heard when their issues are discussed in the public. This phenomenon is also visible in the field of research: up until now research has mostly focused on restrictions that aging possibly brings with it, and relatively little research has been published on elderly people’s language use and interaction.

The Department of Languages at the University of Jyväskylä is implementing a research project called Person-centered language use and good aging, which investigates language use from the perspective of senior citizens. The research takes into account the various linguistic roles of elderly people: they are language users who act in various interactional situations but also objects of knowledge and action. The research project is a part of a larger development project of a Finnish bilingual municipality, Lapinjärvi. The project aims to develop a humane, person-centered approach to elderly care in the elderly care services.

Read more about the project here.

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  • It’s really interesting to hear someone combining elderly care and use of language in research. I’ve seen and heard lots of interesting things when visiting my grandpa at his nursing home and there’s definetly a lot of things to research in the way the old people communicate, especially the ones with dementia etc (like my grandpa).

  • In my opinion the best thing about this research is the way it approaches elderly people in a positive light. Talking and being able to tell stories about history are an important part of a balanced old-age. That’s why I see the research and its results as an important and useful matter.

  • It is sad to see, that people these days do not respect their elders. They rather send them to elderly care centers and just forget about them. So it is not a miracle that elderly people’s language use and interaction has not been properly researched, because of the way people see the elderly as a burden. Many forget, that these old people, that they send to elderly care centers are the ones who nurtured and educated them. And i think it is only fair, that children of these elderly realize their responsibility towards their elders and took care of them, especially, when there are known to be problems in the elderly care centers with care taking.

  • The topic of this research seems really interesting! Come to think of it, the media portrays elderly people in a rather biased way. I hope that seeing the reasons behind this phenomenon will make at least some journalists to question their narrative.

  • I am excited to hear about this research project! The elderly are often misunderstood and people only discuss their lives in negative contexts. I believe this research will bring people new positive perspectives regarding the elderly. I worked in a nursing home as summer job for two weeks. My job was to discuss with the elderly and keep them company. The stories they told and the things they said really touched me, and I felt sad that the senior citizens are often left alone and unheard. The way senior citizens use language is something worth researching, the elderly need to express themselves and be heard too!

  • An interesting topic, for sure. In some western countries — Finland, for instance — pensioners are seen as not much more than a burden to society, and research / news on them reflects this thinking. If the language used by young people has been researched extensively, why not do the same for the elderly?

  • I think it’s wonderful that the elderly are finally getting some much deserved attention as language users! At the same time I am very surprised it hasn’t happened any sooner. Have they been seen as “ready” speakers, being in a static state where their means of communication remain the same? Perhaps not, but it is quite sad they’ve been left in the shadow of younger generations even in this field of research.

  • One thing which makes the topic of the research expecially actual is the fact that in the future the number of the elderly people will increase. Especially it will be good to find out how the elderly, with the language they use and the stories they tell, could be used as a source of energy instead of as a burden.

  • The research seems quite interesting. Like mentioned above, elderly people are often discussed in negative contexts, and nursing homes’ poor conditions are often brought up as well, so it’s nice to see an improvement coming.

  • En usko vanhojen ihmisten kielenkäytön tutkimisen olevan vaivan arvoista. Kielen ilmiöt, joita heitä tutkimalla voidaan huomata, ovat varmasti dokumentoitu jo ennestään johonkin. Monikieliset vanhukset tarpeeksi poikkeuksellinen ryhmä haittaamaan tutkimusta.

  • The notion that researching elderly people’s language use is somehow obsolete seems to overlook the fluid nature of language – the more or less extensive documenting of e.g. Finnish dialects in the 60’s and 70’s isn’t mutually exclusive with researching into contemporary uses of language in an aging nation like Finland, so I believe this research project is very important.

  • Mielestäni tutkimus on erittäin hyödyllinen, koska tulevaisuudessa vanhojen ihmisten määrä tulee tosiaankim kasvamaan ja tutkimuksesta saattaa olla heidän ymmärtämisessään ja hoitamisessa suuri apu.

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