What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “speak up”? You probably think of advocacy or getting on a soap box, but for a senior it can be so much more than that.
It isn’t unusual for seniors to say that feel invisible or that they can’t make themselves heard. Many of them grew up believing that silence was golden. They were all taught to be quiet, to be polite, and to stay below the radar. Our mother’s and our grandmothers were cautious about voicing their opinions because it was unseemly, unladylike, or thought to be rude. People are noisier now. Being assertive has become an art form. Being assertive has become something to be admired instead of something to be avoided.
How do you sound when you speak on the phone or in front of a group of people? Do you sound “old”? Does your voice tremble or sound raspy and weak? How you speak says a lot about who you are. It is time to squelch the idea that seniors should be quiet and unassuming. I am not saying that you should be cranky and rude, but you don’t have to whisper either. If you don’t speak up nobody will know you are there. Nobody will know what you feel.
Susan Kreimer wrote an article for the July/August 2012 AARP bulletin (www.aarp.org/bulletin) about people who work hard to develop a stronger and younger voice. I like the word stronger better than younger, but that is only because I don’t want you to think that “younger” is the ultimate goal. The idea is the same though, and it means that if you speak with a strong firm voice people are more apt to take you seriously.
The author reminds us that aging doesn’t cause most voice problems. If you are having a hard time making yourself heard, she recommends seeing a specialist rather than self diagnosing. At the same time, a few vocal exercises (think of a singer warbling musical scales) could teach you how to speak up or even sing in the choir again. Vocal exercises all emphasize proper breathing, projection and pitch. We exercise everything else these days so why not look into some voice lessons? Four to six weeks could do wonders for your self image.
You may have a lot of really important things to say but if no one can hear you, what is the point? How you sound and the way you speak says more about you than you think. Speak up and make people take you seriously!