This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Elderspeak: Helpful or Harmful? A Systematic Review of Speech to Elderly Adults




Lowery, Mary

Type of Degree



Communication Disorders


Elderspeak, an over-accommodation used in communicating with older adults, has both verbal and nonverbal features. To many its use suggests a lack of respect toward the older adult. A systematic review of 28 studies was conducted to analyze the evidence as to the features of elderspeak and its intended accommodation/benefit versus its potentially negative/harmful effect on both sender and recipient. The quality and validity of each source was assessed using a modified checklist created by combining aspects of the checklists provided by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) for systematic reviews and meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, and cohort studies and the SIGN checklist for systematic reviews and meta-analyses was used for one systematic review. The results found that elderspeak is a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary phenomenon that consists of various features that may or may not be used by a speaker. In addition, it has both beneficial and harmful consequences, as seen by its ability to improve the comprehension of elderly adults, while at the same time often being negatively rated and perceived by young and elderly alike. Repetitions, elaborations, and simple sentences can help older adults remember information better and follow directions, but speakers should be particularly careful about using a high, widely varying pitch.