They encountered a number of instances that compromised or did not consider patient dignity during visits to acute wards in eight hospitals in several different health board areas.
The Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) visits were made after a Scottish Government drive was launched in April to ensure acute hospitals were providing high standards of care for older people.
However, in its first six-month overview into the findings, HIS criticised patronising language sometimes used by staff when discussing older patients.
Inspectors said: "We found examples of patients referred to as 'feeders' and 'wanderers'. Patients were described as needing 'fed' or 'toileted'.
"Some patients were addressed in a childlike manner and words commonly associated with childhood, such as 'cot sides', were used to describe their care."
They also noted medical staff did not always comply with do-not-resuscitate guidance and openly discussed personal issues and what was wrong with a patient at their bedside.
There were issues with patients at risk of developing pressure sores not being treated with the appropriate pressure relieving equipment.
Inspections were carried out at the Western Infirmary and Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Wishaw General Hospital, Monklands Hospital in Airdrie and Hairmyres General near East Kilbride. There were also inspections at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose and the Western General in Edinburgh.
Acting chief inspector Ian Smith said: "In the majority of our observations, we saw staff treating older people with compassion, dignity and respect. We also noted many hospitals have started to make the hospital environment more suitable for patients with dementia.
"However, we identified a number of areas for improvement. In some instances, staff did not always consider the patient's privacy and dignity."
Lindsay Scott, of charity Age Scotland, said: "A lot of this is down to staff not being able to provide patients with the care and attention that most of them want to. Staff looking after one patient, for example, when they are interrupted to deal with something else, or patients being passed from one member of staff to another. This is not good for patients, especially those with cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
"What you have to say, though, is that this inspection regime by Healthcare Improvement Scotland is producing results. There were a lot of people who thought we had an excellent standard of care for the elderly in our hospitals, and this is showing that isn't always the case."
Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: "We produced a report into safe staffing levels on older people's wards, in which we recommend a minimum of one professionally qualified nurse per seven patients. Any less, and nursing teams become overstretched and are unable to deliver high quality care."
Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jackie Baillie, said the report pointed to a "worrying trend". She added: "We need a clear set of recommendations for elderly care in hospitals across the country."
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "The report highlights areas of strength as well as identifying how we continue to make improvements. The issues of language and culture raised in this report are clearly unacceptable and strong lessons must be learnt here."