Encouraging women to evolve and create new opportunities at any age.


The Power of Words - Especially Labels!

We really mean it!  We appreciate feedback and comments from our readers.  Here’s the delightful e-mail we received from Suzanne Briley, who lives in Hobe Sound, Florida, and obviously, has a good sense of humor. 
As background, you’ll recall that – in our August newsletter - we wrote about labels applied to older people.  Suzanne says our August newsletter really got her thinking and she shared these thoughts with us.  

“Food for Thought!
To continue with the discussion of the descriptive terminology and labels stuck on older people in our world of today.... my simple opinion is that perhaps we should do away with some of the present wording.....
BOOMERS (reminding me of some distant firework display)
TRAILBLAZER (an appointed guide for a woodland walk)
ELDER (A flower or berry growing along the roadsides) or it could apply to a person of authority and superior rank but certainly not in all cases!
Therefore, the word SENIOR remains and perhaps that would be the best of the lot. It’s descriptive of "higher rank" and that suits me!
Oh, and there is always SAGE (a plant.... or an old person of great wisdom.) held in Oriental society with the greatest respect.
Suzanne Briley

Thanks, Suzanne.  You got me thinking about the positive and negative aspects of labels.
I’m not fond of labels – unless they’re on cans in the supermarket! I’m grateful I can rely on tomatoes to be inside the cans labeled “tomatoes.”  These days, the supermarket labels tell me much more – for example, the sodium and sugar content of my tomatoes – and that is useful information.  In fact, that is what labels are supposed to do – provide useful information. 
In my profession, we have a passion for labeling.  We even have a manual called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for labeling various emotional and mental problems.  I recall being told in graduate school that these labels exist to help mental health professionals collaborate for patient care.  They are intended to facilitate information sharing.  They are a kind of “shorthand” to explain in a few words a condition that is complex and multi-faceted.
Of course, labels often facilitate medical treatment.  We want to be labeled correctly at the physician’s office so that we can be treated effectively.  Even then, I’d prefer the physician look at my case with “fresh” eyes – really observing the symptoms and not just accepting a label that has been assigned without question.  
OK – so what’s my point?  

Labels can be informative and facilitate everyday life and health.  
But, labels applied to people often miss the mark because – in their abbreviated form - they miss the complexity that is the real person.  Instead of information, they box in and categorize – often based on one criteria, as if the person is simply a certain age, for example, and nothing else. I’m especially sensitive to those labels that follow words such as “all” or “none.”  For example, “All seniors suffer from decreased cognitive functioning.”  -or-  â€œNo adolescent these days cares about working for goals.” 
I've been on my soapbox about this before, but I believe older adults are diminished in the eyes of others (and maybe even by themselves) by the numerous labels that have been applied to them by others.  I believe that individuals of any age vary in almost every aspect of their personality characteristics, behavioral functioning and abilities.  I played tennis with a 92 year-old woman last week, and she hits a mean tennis ball. 
What about you?  Any thoughts on labels and terminology?

“Once you label me you negate me.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Join the conversation......

What are your thoughts on labels and terminology?

Heard about this on Diane Rehm show August 28..........sounds like such an optimistic view of how older persons may participate (rather than withdraw) in their communities and how they can retain their vitality and power.

Click here: Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life: Chris Farre
Congratulations to Mary Jo Horton, one of the Pages, who is a finalist in the "Health Care Champions" on Florida's Treasure Coast. The 12 finalists will be honored at an awards breakfast October 2 at the Port St Lucie Civic Center. The Stuart News will feature these remarkable champions in a special section 9/29/2014. 
Visit the website for details about future events:  
We’d love for you to attend. Events Page
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Copyright © 2014 Kendra Brown, Ph.D, All rights reserved.

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