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Ageist Language: Letter to all media editors, NUJ and Press Council

Thursday April 23, 2020

We are specialists spanning fields of nursing, public health, health systems, medicine, health and social care professionals, social policy, advocacy and NGO organisations.

We write to express our utmost concern over recent examples of the inappropriate use of language by some media outlets in their reporting of the current COVID-19 pandemic. We ask that those in a position to shape the narrative of older people’s experiences in our media do so carefully.

Terms such as ‘elderly’, ‘seniors’, ‘pensioners’ ‘elders’, ‘OAPs’ are considered stereotypical, ageist and disrespectful. One national newspaper used the term ‘nappies’ to describe continence management whilst a journalist on RTÉ news made reference to older people ‘dropping like flies’ both which are particularly unacceptable and upsetting. The overuse of the phrase ‘underlying condition’ diminishes the lives and deaths of people who die from Covid19. It also contributes to a creeping narrative that some lives are more expendable than others.

The consequence of using such discriminatory language is that it reinforces prejudicial attitudes and stereotypes. It may also be quite emotionally damaging and disempowering for some older people who feel misrepresented and demeaned by such terms.

Ageist and stereotypical language is in opposition to Ireland’s 2019 achievement as being the first country recognised as Age-Friendly by the World Health Organisation. We fear this language may reinforce ageist stereotypes which negate the common humanity and dignity which is enjoyed by all people, regardless of their age.

We would like to remind our media about the power they wield through the language they choose to report on the experiences of older people during this current crisis. It is widely understood that language has a role in shaping our culture, our values and our social relations. We therefore urgently request that editorial guidance is modified to recognise the diversity within older people through the use of inclusive language. Where it is necessary, the term older people is more appropriate; however, it should always be understood and acknowledged that no two people age in the same way.

We acknowledge and thank you all for the work you have done in reporting the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland. We hope that this letter will encourage further action and ask in particular that you revise your editorial guidelines to ensure more inclusive language.

Yours sincerely,

Éidín Ní Shé, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems
Amanda Phelan, Professor of Ageing and Community Nursing, Trinity College Dublin
Deirdre O’Donnell, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems
Avril Kennan, CEO, Health Research Charities Ireland
Marie Therese Cooney, Consultant Geriatrician, SVUH
Sean Moynihan, CEO ALONE
Georgina Bassett, Director of Nursing St. Columba’s & Castlecomer Hospitals & Hon. President Irish Association of Directors of Nursing and Midwifery
Deirdre Lang, Director of Nursing National Lead Older Persons Services, Health Service Executive
Clodagh Whelan Advocacy, Engagement and Participation Officer, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland
Catherine Buckley Practice Development Lecturer Northridge House Education & Research Centre & President AIGNA ( All Ireland Gerontological Nurses Association).
Tadhg Daly, CEO, NHI on behalf of 396 Member Nursing Homes
Regina Connell, COVID Practice Support, NHI
Judy Walsh, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work & Social Justice
Aoife De Brún, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems
Kate Frazer, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems
Evonne Healy, Director of Nursing, The Royal Hospital, Donnybrook
Deepa George, Director of Nursing, Middletown House Nursing Home
Laura Sheridan, Director of Nursing, Maypark House Nursing Home
Mary Galvin, Assistant Professor, Department of Design Innovation, Maynooth University
George Jefferies Clinical Nurse Specialist for Older People
Jon Salsberg, SL in Primary Health Care Research, University of Limerick Medical School
Sinead Morrissey, Nurse Consultant, Sinead Morrissey Consulting Ltd
Audrey Beckett, Director of Care, Quality and Standards. Curam Healthcare
Karen Mannion RANP Mayo University Hospital
Marie O’Shea, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Midwifery & Health Systems
Turlough Considine, Castlebridge Nursing Home, Castlebridge, Co Wexford
James White, CEO Curam Healthcare
Anne Costello Director of Nursing
Deirdre Wickham RANP Older Persons Wexford General Hospital
Denise Kirwan RGN St Josephs Supported Care Home. Kilmoganny. Co. Kilkenny
Simon Balfe, Director of Nursing, CareChoice Swords
Anne Walpole, Tinnypark Nursing Home
Sinead Carberry
Margaret Anne Walsh CEO Signacare
Shona O’Brien Director of Nursing/Person in Charge, Greenhill Nursing Home, Carrick on Suir, Co. Tipperary
Millie O’Gorman, Advanced Nurse Practitioner Older Persons, Waterford.
Mary Flanagan Director of Nursing Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services
Anne Matthews, Professor at the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, DCU
Seamus Killeen Director Curam Healthcare
Sarah Bowman, Trinity College Dublin
Jaison John, Director of Nursing, SignaCare Nursing, Carlow
Caitriona Cunningham, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science
Mary O Brien, Head of Service, Older Persons, MWCH
Oliver O’Halloran Advanced Nurse Practitioner Older Persons, CHO3
Amy Mullee, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science
Anne Fraher Quality Manager Signacare
Anne Marie Ackerely Director of Nursing Signacare Newross Co Wexford
Dr Regina Joye UCD School of Nursing Midwifery and Health Systems
Catriona Murphy, Asst Prof School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, DCU
Trish Curran Director of Nursing Mooncoin Residential Care Centre
Annemarie Carter Wygram Nursing Home Director of Nursing
Fiona Munro Senior Staff Nurse, CHO 9
Nicola Doran, Director of Nursing.Knockeen Nursing Home
Elaine Keane Director of Clinical Services TLC Nursing Home Services
Jacqueline Mahon Assistant Director of Nursing Maynooth Community Care Unit
Cliona O’Sullivan, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science
Diarmuid Ó Coimín, End-of-Life Care Coordinator Mater Misericordiae University Hospital
Kara Cullen, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science
Úna Cunningham, Clinical Directorate Lead, Health and Social Care Professions & Head of Transformation, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital
Olive Lennon, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science
Therese Herlihy Assistant Professor School of Medicine, UCD
Catherine McGonagle, Assistant Professor, DCU
Dr Derick Mitchell, Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science & Industry (IPPOSI)
Anne Keys. Assistant Director of Nursing Curam Oakfield Nursing Home
Marion Maher, UCD School of Medicine,
Jonathon O’Keeffe RANP Gerontology SVUH
Dr Emer Ahern, Consultant Geriatrician, Cork University Hospital
Paula Phelan Director of Nursing St. Vincent’s CNU Mountmellick
Dr Caroline Hogan, Valentia Nursing Home
Anne Fleck-Byrne, Managing Director and Director of Nursing, Drakekands House Nursing Home
Linda Walsh Assistant Director of Nursing Castlebridge Manor Nursing home Wexford
Vipilesh Kannikolly, Director of Nursing, Melview Nursing home
Tina Leonard, Head of Advocacy and Public Affairs, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland
Regina Power Director of Nursing, HavenWood Nursing Home.
Karla Walsh Director of Quality, CareChoice Group
Angela Lyons, Director of Nursing. Care Choice Finglas
Edele Lee Morris, Kerlogue nursing home, Wexford
Kay Finn, Director of Nursing, Sacred Heart Nursing Home, Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny
Dr Lisa Cogan Consultant Geriatrician, Medical Director, The Royal Hospital Donnybrook
Catherine O Byrne
Kate O Dea
Claire Noonan
Karen Horgan, CEO, Age & Opportunity
Alice Farrelly RANP Older Persons
Gail Tully Director of Nursing Care Choice Trim County Meath
Alice Coffey Professor of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Limerick
Clare Corish, Associate Professor Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, UCD School Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science
Elaine Wilkinson, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Dementia, Tipperary
Prof Kate Irving DCU
Orla Gallagher, Director of Operations Bushmount/ Fairfield Nursing Home
Brona Fullen, Associate Professor, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science
Audrey K Wright
Edel Shiel ANP St Brendan’s CNU, Loughrea, Galway
Deirdre Phelan, UCD School Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science
Martina Mc Gauran PIC Riverdale Nursing Home Ball Carlow
Jackie Reed, National Lead, National Health & Social Care Professions Office, HSE
Catherine McLoughlin, Physiotherapy Manager, St. Vincent’s University Hospital
Corrinne Hasson, Services Manager ALONE
Alphonse Basogomba, Chairman, Intercultural and Diversity Education Centre-Ireland (IDEC-Ireland)
Eimear Hickey, Assistant Director of Nursing, Drogheda Services for Older People
Kate Donlon Advanced Nurse Practitioner Frailty, Roscommon University Hospital
Fiona Rigney Practice Development Mid West OPRS
John Dolan, Disability Federation of Ireland
Kavitha Ramalingam Advanced Nurse Practitioner Care of Older Persons in Community
Kavitha Ramalingam Integrated Community Advanced Nurse Practitioner/ Care of Older Persons
Vicky McGauley, Practice Development, Drogheda Services for Older People.
Claire Whiting Director of Nursing Valentia Nursing Home
Claire Power Director of Nursing, Strathmore Lodge nursing home
Borris Lodge Nursing Home Helen O’Keeffe RGN, RPN
Liz Martin. Interim Clinical Director. Ditchley Group
Gillian McDonald Director of Nursing Ratoath Manor Nursing Home
Carmel Hoey HSE Service Planner National Integrated Programme Older People
Fiona Bolger, CEO, Spinal Injuries Ireland
Naomi Fitzgibbon, Head of Services, Spinal Injuries Ireland
Reshma Kakkattuchalil, ADON, Lusk Community Unit
Professor Mary McCarron, Professor of Ageing and Intellectual Disability, Trinity College Dublin 2
Mervyn Taylor. Executive Director. Sage Advocacy.
Graceann O Donnell cANP Older Persons, Letterkenny University Hospital
Veronica O’Malley
Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work & Social Justice
Mark Murphy Irish Hospice Foundation
Professor Assumpta Ryan, Professor of Ageing and Health, Ulster University
Emma Nicholson, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems
Yvonne Moroney Director of Nursing St Theresa’s Nursing Home Kilkee Road Kilrush Co Clare
Adrian Ahern Director of Nursing
Professor Gerard Fealy, Professor of Nursing and Dean of Nursing, University College Dublin
Florence Horsman Hogan Quality and Patient Safety Manager
Siobán O’Brien Green, Head of Healthcare programmes, The Irish Hospice Foundation
Sherry Bautista, Director of Nursing, St. Joseph’s Care Centre, Longford
Nora Cunningham ANP candidate Older Persons Services UHL
Professor Anne MacFarlane, Chair in Primary Healthcare Research, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick
Rebecca Ellickson Rockshire Care Centre Waterford
Mary Rose Day Adjunct Senior Lecturer UCC/Nurse Consultant Committee Member AIGNA
Deborah Gallagher ANP Older persons SMH
Norma Sheehan Director of Nursing Saint Joseph’s Shankill Dedicated to Dementia Care
Brid Diggin ANPc Orthogeriatrics University Hospital Kerry
Erika O’Hanlon. cANP Older Persons, St Michael’s Hospital.
Mary Walsh, HRB Centre for Primary Care Research, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Aileen Horgan CNM2 Cork University Hospital
Sophie Alookaran cANP Older Persons, St. John’s Community Hospital, Sligo.
Michelle Kiely HSE Clinical Development Co-Ordinator Cork Community Healthcare
Amanda brolly RANP geriatric medicine UHK
Caroline Gourley Director of Nursing CHODNCC
Sarah Cosgrave RANP Older Persons, St. Vincent’s University Hospital
Shinann Buckley O’Sullivan Senior Speech and Language Therapist University Hospital Kerry
Prof Thomas Kearns, Executive Director Faculty Of Nursing And Midwifery RCSI
Aoife Bailey, Director of Nursing Drogheda Services for Older People
Dorothy Kinsella CNM2, St. John’s Community Hospital., Enniscorthy
Susan Daly HSE Clinical Development Cork / Kerry Community Hospitals / Nursing Units
Daragh Rodger Advanced Nurse Practitioner Care of the Older Adult Community, St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park
Rachel Simons, Director of Nursing, Older Persons Residential Care
Dr Carmel Davies School of Nursing Midwifery and Health Systems, University College Dublin
Edel Carey RANP Older Persons Integrated Care, Cherry Orchard Hospital and SJH within DSKWW Dublin West
Norma Quirke Development Officer, Social Care CHO3
Lisa Prendergast, Deputy Nurse Manager, St. Joseph’s Support Home, Kilmoganny, Co. Kilkenny
Maire O’Keeffe, Director of Nursing, Maynooth Community Care Unit.
Geraldine Ryan Delaney Director of Nursing /Development Officer.
Marita Hennessy, College of Medicine and Health, University College Cork
Ruth Maxwell, Senior Speech & Language Therapist, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin
Dr Sarah Donnelly, Assistant Professor of Social Work, UCD
Orla French, Bed manager/liaison nurse, St. Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park.
Michelle Lynch Self Management Support Co-Ordinator CHO 3
Dr Attracta Lafferty, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems
Maria Pierce, Adjunct Faculty Member, Faculty of Science and Health, Dublin City University
Dr Sinéad Hynes NUI Galway
Lorraine McNamee NMPD Officer HSE
Helen Heery, Practice Education Coordinator, School of Physiotherapy, RCSI
Dean Pegman Browne SpunOut action panel member
Nicola Crean Advanced Nurse Practitioner Older Persons Community Nursing Unit Ballinasloe
Geraldine Devine ADON Ballinasloe CNU
Anne Quinn RANP Living Well with Dementia South Tipperary
Deirdre Shanagher, Gerontological Nurse
Caroline Doran ADON St Vincent’s, Athy
Esther Irwin: Practice Development Coordinator- Claremont Residential & Daycare Services, Dublin North
Donna Mills Community Registered General Nurse DSW
Dr Ann Sheridan Associate Professor UCD SNMHS
Breeda O’Reilly, Retired director of Nursing, Mooncoin Residential Care Centre
Fiona Keogan Service Improvement Lead IEHG
Joy Berey- Director of Nursing Powdermill Nursing Home
Dr Dympna Tuohy, Lecturer, Dept of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Limerick
Marie O’Neill Nurse Lecturer
Brían òg McNamara ADON Greenpark Nursing Home Tuam
Siobhan Ryan RANP South Tipperary General Hospital
Marie Meskell, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems, UCD
Dr Liz Laird, Lecturer of Nursing, School of Nursing, Ulster University.
Úna Coughlan, AIGNA Member, Health care coordinator for retired religious
Fiona Dunne Assistant Director of Nursing, Nurse Practice Development, St. Marys Hospital, Dublin 20
Mary J. Foley Advanced Nurse Practitioner Rehab of Older Adults, St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork
Claire Collier, Director of Nursing, St. Josephs Hospital, Ennis
Denise O Brien UCD school of Nursing Midwifery and Health Systems
Dr Barbara Coughlan UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems
Claire Casey
Siobhán McClean, School of Biomolecular &Biomedical Science UCD
Dr Emer Shanley CNS TIssue Viability
Dr Suja Somanadhan, UCD School of Nursing Midwifery and Health Systems