Beyond words: older people with dementia using and interpreting nonverbal behaviour

Gill Hubbard (Lead / Corresponding author), Ailsa Cook, Susan Tester, Murna Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)


This article addresses a gap in research on nonverbal communication and dementia. It presents findings from a study that explored ways in which older people with dementia used and interpreted nonverbal behaviour within the context of social interactions. Two researchers, using an ethnographic approach, jointly observed nonverbal communicative behaviours occurring in a day-care centre. The findings show that older people with dementia used nonverbal behaviour in meaningful ways for others to interpret, and as a way of self-communication; and that they actively interpreted others' nonverbal behaviour. In specific situations, these people acted in the context of shared meanings, possessed a ‘self’, and took on the ‘role’ of others. This approach has implications for understanding the social experience of dementia and for the ways that care is organised. The role of nonverbal behaviour offers potential for carers to preserve older people's self-identity and improve their quality of life and care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jan 2002
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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