Hurtful words aren’t OK
Death is a term that most of us diately following World War II. incorrect ways of identifying and
are reluctant to talk about. It’s These baby boomers represent portraying the elderly.
almost as if we don’t want to seem more than 28% of the nation’s (Full disclosure: My colleague
offensive. overall population. Jim Berklan was contacted for the
But we’re not nearly as reticent Life expectancy for men is stylebook and is quoted in it.)
when it comes to thoughtless lan- now 82 years, and it’s 85 years for I found its recommendations
guage that refers to our oldest citi- women. Moreover, their ranks will for journalists personally help-
zens. The hurtful terms are blurted
out all too often: biddy, codger,
ful. But the suggestions would
probably benefit any person who
John O’Connor coot, fogy, fuddy-duddy, geezer, helps take care of older people.
sweet old lady and vegetable, to Such as:
McKnight’s Long-Term Care News name but a few.
be more • When in doubt, ask sources
email@example.com Small wonder that 4 of 5 people careful when what term they prefer.
who live past age 65 report they • Avoid being patronizing or
have been on the receiving end
we refer to using stereotyping terms.
of ageist stereotypes. These are older people.” • Use “individual” or “person.”
the ideas, attitudes, beliefs and • Remember that older adults
practices that are biased against are not a monolithic group.
people because of advancing age. only continue to grow for decades Perhaps the stylebook’s best
While the names and suggestions to come. So we should be more suggestion is to redefine aging
may vary, their intent is unmistak- careful when we refer to older as an active verb—a process we
able: They let the person on the people—and how. all experience rather than a label
receiving end know that he or she The International Longevity to be placed on the old and frail
is not quite measuring up. Center, and Aging Services of among us.
But the time for a reality check California recently teamed up to Admittedly, aging as an active
has arrived. We are, after all, an create Media Takes: On Aging. verb is a concept that may take
aging nation. Currently, there are The stylebook is intended to help some getting used to. But it’s a
76 million Americans who were media professionals navigate the dramatic improvement on some