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How Do You Say…Old?

Age has become one of those topics that require so-called “political correctness” so that people are not referred to as simply old with the implication that they are not valued past as certain age.

As life expectancy increases, more and more people are living longer. There was time when the average life span was about 30, but with industrialization life spans began increasing and are now about 70 years of age on average. What should these people over the typical age of retirement be called?

Who You Callin’ Old?

The Eden Alternative, a non-profit dedicated to quality of life for, er, older people, prefers the term Elder. The Eden Alternative explains this preference: “As in ancient cultures, we see an Elder as someone who, by virtue of life experience, is here to teach us how to live.”

Dr. Bill Thomas, geriatrician and founder of The Eden Alternative, is currently touring with his “Age of Disruption Tour” in which he brings “non-fiction theater” performances and workshops to sites in the U.S. and Canada.

“We are setting out to radically change the world and the way people think about dementia,” said Kavan Peterson, Age of Disruption Tour Director and co-founder of ChangingAging, a multi-blog network.

Define, Please

So much of the terminology surrounding age is engrained and people say things without thinking twice.

Take “golden years” versus “twilight years.” When you look up the word, the choice is obvious:

Golden: “having glowing vitality; radiant, full of happiness, prosperity, or vigor.”

Twilight: “a state of uncertainty, vagueness, or gloom.”

Certainly if asked, someone would rather be living a golden life rather than one in twilight.

At this point, a new word or phrase for being someone of a certain age (let’s say 65 years or more) has not become part of the lexicon. To be clear, we’re talking about commonly acceptable terms like senior citizen or retiree and not those which are clearly offensive like “geezer.”

Next Avenue, a website for people over age 50, created a poll asking people to choose between new terms like “super adult” and “gener-ager.”

Whatever the term, it is being argued that people should embrace this “third phase” of life, grateful to be alive and continue learning and growing. For those looking forward to it yet, be careful how you talk to and about those ahead of you on the path.

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