A Call for Some New Terminology!
Terry Kinane Gray, Editor and website Manager
After editing and publishing Kendraâ€™s July newsletter, I did some research on the terminology associated with aging. Itâ€™s apparent that terminology influences perception, so itâ€™s powerful and important to consider. I found that many terms were dismissive and belittling. Even the best of traditional terms for aging do not reflect current lifestyles.
In July, Ina Jaffe, of National Public Radio, aired a survey about â€œdespised and acceptable termsâ€ for aging. In general, the results were not enthusiastic about the terms typically used. The least disliked terms were â€œolder adultsâ€, â€œeldersâ€ and â€œseniors.â€ While â€œsenior citizensâ€ was not really liked, other terms had very negative responses: â€œgeezer,â€ â€œold timer,â€ â€œelderly,â€ â€œgolden years,â€ and â€œgeriatric.â€
Jaffe concluded by citing a recent poll: â€œâ€¦ nearly three quarters of baby boomers plan to continue working during their so-called retirement years, which may mean that the word retirement is also on its way out. The point is we are getting rid of a lot of these traditional terms for aging, but we havenâ€™t come up with anything to replace themâ€¦â€
Note that Kendra wrote about this too last month, citing an article in the July-August AARP, in which A. Barry Rand wrote about a new retirement model, created by the â€œBoomersâ€ in which retirees look forward to â€œThe Age of Possibilitiesâ€, rather than simply withdrawing from previous roles and departing into virtual invisibility.
Motivated by my research and the articles listed above, I began hunting for some replacement terms. Many cultures celebrate the aging process and the concept of â€œeldersâ€ is central to the family and community. Elders are respected for their wisdom and life experiences. I liked the suggestions of thinking of this stage of life as the â€œmastery levelâ€ and the visual pictures conveyed by â€œelder heroes,â€ â€œwisdom keepers,â€ or â€œmasters.â€