Sight & Hearing Loss = Social Isolation

A relative, Mr. P., refuses to buy his wife a hearing aid. He and Mrs. P., never really had what one would describe as a good relationship, and now that Mrs. P., cannot hear much of what he says or what others say when they visit, it appears to suit Mr. P. just fine. Mrs. P., with her hearing loss cannot keep up with the conversation, and frequently falls asleep when at the table where conversation is occurring. Mrs. P. therefore suffers from social isolation due to her hearing loss.

With an elderly property manager, Dale, who suffered hearing loss, I had to adopt a “louder and slower conversational style” (p. 236) to ensure he heard and understood me. If I did not use this style of speaking, he would inevitably ask me what I had said. His hearing loss led to “increased requests for information to be repeated in conversation” (p. 236). Dale’s hearing loss led me to keep in person conversations brief and send him emails if I had a lot to explain or more complicated information. Fortunately, Dale used email.

Some facts about hearing loss associated with aging (Presbycusis):
* Increases after age 45
* Causes difficulty in the ability to discriminate between higher frequency consonants like F, G, S, T and Z (p. 236).
* Elderly may tend to “fill in the gaps” and guess what they have missed in the conversation or resort to “lip reading”
* Can affect one’s speech “as people rely on their ability to hear as feedback for monitoring speech” (p. 238).

Some facts about age related Sight Loss (Presoyopia):
* A thickening of the crystalline lenses of the eye.
* Begins at age 40. (p. 234)
* By age 70, “fewer than 30% of elderly people have 20/20 eyesight” and most do not achieve “normal eyesight even with correction” (p. 234)

Conversational Issue with combined Hearing/Sight loss:
* To “compensate for reduced ability to see or hear” people often end up “standing closer to the information source” (p. 237) thereby infringing on the others personal space. This “can be considered inappropriate, making conversation unpleasant” (p. 238).

A favorite elderly neighbor of mine, Alice, who was in her 80’s when I knew her, experienced both sight and hearing loss. On the back of her front door she had taped a sheet of paper that read: “Don’t Forget - Glasses, Hearing Aid, Dentures, Keys, Purse.” Perhaps this was the key to her success. She never left home without her "essentials" and she was able to live a very active life.

Nussbaum, J. F., Pecchioni, L. L., Robinson, J. D., & Thompson T. L.. (2000). Communication and Aging. (2nd ed.). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.

Women & Aging in the Media

1. Zimmerman, Ann. “A Grandma or Grandpa by Any Other Name Is Just as Old.” The Wall Street Journal. 23 Jan 2009.

I found this article in the Wall Street Journal back in January. The article was an unforgettable one, which discussed the way some “boomers” are not feeling that the traditional names of “grandma”, “grandpa”, “granny” or “gramps” fit how they see themselves. Some of these individuals are choosing their own names that their grandchildren can call them in which they can continue to feel youthful despite their role as grandparents (a role generally perceived as occurring when older in age). I believe that if it makes new grandparents feel more individual, unique or even younger to have a name that fits their own ideas of self, they should have the right to decide that. No one should be made to feel bad about how they view themselves just to comply with traditional monikers.

2. Keane, Jeff and Bill. “Family Circus.” Cartoon. Houston Chronicle. 17 Apr. 2009.

I liked this comic specifically because I felt it addressed the question of “When is an old woman old?” In this comic, the child sees her mother as being old when one could imagine that the child’s mother sees her own grandmother or mother as being old. Age, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Perception plays a key role in who views a woman as being old. Additionally, this comic reminded me of the cyclical fact of time and age in how there always will be someone older than you are now.

3. Youth Surge by Clinique. “Unless you’re in some hurry to see 40.” Advertisement. 15 April 2009.

This ad was one grabbed my attention mostly because of the turtle. However, I noticed that my reaction to this ad changed as the longer I looked at it.

First, the ad appealed to me with the cuteness of the image. Second, I found the ad a bit disturbing with what being compared with a turtle implied. Third, I became unnerved by the message because it implied that 40 is not an age to one should want to look. Fourth, I made the connection of why a turtle had been used. The turtle, the ad states, is nearly 60 years of age and does not look “a day over 30”. While I was relieved to finally understand why a turtle had been used, I was disappointed with its offensive stance on age. Is 30 old? Is 40 too old? What about the turtle of 60 years in age, is she too old? Or is this turtle just right because no one knows she’s 60 because she only looks 30?

Clinique makes some very strong, yet conflicting statements with this ad that I wasn’t sure were entirely tasteful.

4. "Rita Levi Montalcini, Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist Turns 100, Still Works” The Huffington Post. 18 Apr. 2009.

This was an interesting article I found both inspiring and concerning. While I found it inspiring to see an accomplished scientist still working in her field with the confidence and clarity of mind that some others her age or even younger lack, I was not sure I would want to be working that long into my life. However, in the turmoil our economy now stands, I believe we will continue to see more and more people working well past the traditional retirement ages of the past. I can only hope that like Ms. Montalcini, we will have the clarity of mind and vigor to live such long and fulfilling lives.

All content © Village Memorial. 2009-2010.