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Aging and Message Production and Processing

Susan Kemper and RaLynn Schmalzried


Aging affects many aspects of →  Message Production and processing. The nature of conversation changes: unlike young adults, dyads of older adults mix talk about the past with talk about the present which may help them achieve a shared sense of →  meaning and personal worth. Conversations with older adults are often marked by “painful self-disclosures” of bereavement, ill health, immobility, and assorted personal and family problems which may maintain “face” by contrasting personal strengths and competencies with past problems and limitations, and coping with personal losses and difficulties. Older adults tend to adopt a “not-listening,” “disapproving,” or “over-protecting” style when interacting with young adults. Older adults are perceived as more rigid and negative in their speech which may provide a reason for avoiding conversations with older adults ( Nussbaum & Coupland 2004 ; →  Intergenerational Communication ). However, three issues have dominated discussions of age-related differences in message production and processing: the use of elderspeak by others when communicating with older adults, the occurrence of off-target verbosity in the speech of older adults, and the frequency of word-finding problems experienced by older adults. Elderspeak is an accommodation by others to communicating with older adults, either in response to actual communication needs of older ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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