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This special issue on communication, aging, and health draws attention to the ways in which communication issues are central to the health and health care of older adults. Specialized communication skills and knowledge are especially vital for these formal providers delivering health care, long-term care, and health promotion services to older adults, whose needs and resources vary greatly from one individual to another and from one time period to another.
A host of communication impediments arise for health providers serving the needs of older adults: ageism and age-biased stereotypes, changes in basic interaction skills among older adults, and age-associated differences in communication styles or expectations. All of these can have a dominant influence on health care interactions, necessitating an effort to optimize communicative relationships between older clients and their health care providers.
The articles in this issue place an emphasis on understanding the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of dyadic, helping relationships with older people. The purpose of focusing research on ways to enhance communication between older adults and health providers is to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction with care, increase job satisfaction among providers, and improve the efficiency and appropriateness of services for older people. In displaying a variety of theoretical, disciplinary, and empirical approaches to research issues in communication, aging and health, this special issue provides insights concerning barriers to, and facilitators of, effective health communication with older adults.
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