Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What Should We Call Ourselves?

Anna Deavere Smith* quotes her paternal grandfather as saying: “If you say a word often enough, it becomes you.” Language is powerful...

The word 'gay' use to mean 'lighthearted and carefree'; today 'gay' refers to homosexuals.

During the Women's Movement women claimed the label 'woman' instead of 'girl'. 'Woman' connotes experience and independence; unlike 'girl' that connotes naivete and dependence.

During the Civil Rights Movement outworn labels of Negro and colored were dropped and the labels reflective of a stronger identity were claimed – Black and African-American.

So what term shall we claim as a way of embracing our aging selves. Years ago when I was doing Conscious Aging workshops this topic came up. Participants unanimously disliked the 'senior citizen' label, hated 'elderly,' 'aged' they associated with a wine or cheese. Many participants liked the word 'elder' which connotes a person of wisdom. Though, in my opinion, wisdom comes with conscious and reflective life experience and does not automatically come with old age.

The term I have most often used in recent years has been 'older adults'. However, in reading This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, by Ashton Applewhite*, I think Applewhite has come up with the perfect term – 'olders.' To my ears 'olders' sounds respectful and like someone who knows how to have fun and play; and as Applewhite writes in her book, “It's clear and value-neutral, and it emphasizes that age is a continuum.

So in my head, and in my blogs, 'olders' it is...

Ashton Applewhite, 
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism,
Page 11

*Anna Deavere Smith,
Talk to me: Listening Between the Lines,
Page 37

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