Thursday, December 22, 2016

Language of Ageism

The problems of society will also be the problems
of the predominant language of that society.
It is the carrier of its perceptions, its attitudes,
and its goals, for through it, the speakers
absorb entrenched attitudes.”
                                                                                                 Njabulo Ndebele


While listening to a radio call-in show, a woman calls in and asks a question. The radio host asks her age – “I'm 82”.  His response, “You don't sound 82.” The caller's immediate reply is “Thank you.” For what is she thanking him? She, like many of us, express our own internalized ageism with “thank you's” to someone's comment that we appear younger than our years.

How might each of these individuals have responded using language honoring age? The radio host might have said: “Your voice is vibrant and energetic. I admire that.” The caller might have said: “My voice reflects my 82 years on the planet for which I am grateful.”

When I share I have just entered my 7th decade, I sometimes hear: “You can't be 70!”  As much as I hate to acknowledge this, a piece of me takes pleasure in hearing this which reflects my own ageism. As a way to honor my own age though, I now respond: “What I hear you saying is that 70 looks good on me. Thank you.”

Blatant anti-aging language abounds in our culture – as well as subtle anti-aging language as described in this blog. One way to break through the ageism rampant in our culture is to develop new language. There will be more blogs on this topic. For now I encourage you to perk up your ears, listen, and let your Old, Bold and Beautiful Self respond with language that honors your Life's Journey...


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