Learn How and When To Speak Up for Older Adults

Learn How and When To Speak Up for Older Adults

Encouraging someone to speak up for themselves – or speaking up for them, if needed – can help them get the support and services that they deserve.


People who help older adults might encourage them to speak or advocate for them during:

  • Family meetings
  • Medical appointments
  • Bank visits
  • Hospital stays
  • Meetings about resources or benefits
  • Appointments with lawyers
  • Stays in rehab or long-term care facilities


Speaking up can help the older adult:

  • Avoid harm and exploitation
  • Make their values and priorities clear
  • Ensure that their decisions are honored
  • Get needed information and services
  • Understand their rights


Being an advocate means:

  • Supporting the older adult’s independence
  • Honoring the older adult’s decisions
  • Understanding the older adult’s needs and preferences
  • Focusing on the older adult’s wishes, rather than the advocate’s views
  • Being willing to question authority figures
  • Taking notes, looking up information and following up when necessary


Advocates help ensure that the older adult’s decisions are honored. However, they aren’t necessarily the same people who can make financial or legal decisions on the older adult’s behalf.


Advocates can help when older adults face ageism or other types of discrimination. Ageism is treating someone differently because of their age.


Ageism can affect older adults’ care if health professionals:

  • Don’t treat symptoms like pain, fatigue or depression because they think it’s just a normal part of getting old
  • Don’t provide preventive care like vaccines or health screenings because they think it’s less important for older adults
  • Recommend unnecessary tests or treatments based on someone’s age rather than their health, abilities or concerns