Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Power of Language

Language exerts hidden power,
 like a moon on the tides.
                                            Rita Mae Brown  

While attending a theater usher-training today, the trainer indicated that should there be a cardiac emergency there is a defibrillator in the lobby. I indicated: “I'm not comfortable doing anything with a defibrillator.” The young woman next to me offered: “I have no problem with that I work with seniors.”

“A ha” I thought. This is one of the problems with the word senior or any other word used to reference older adults – we have no word to differentiate a healthy senior from a frail, ill senior.
While added years do impact our physical well being -- they do not necessarily lead us into frailness.

Language is powerful... And as an older, I take issue with the subtle language of ageism. One common way our language reflects this ageism is with references like: The 90 year 'young' man who runs a marathon;  the teacher of yoga (or whatever) who is 90 years young; or the infamous compliment a 60-plus woman is paid by referring to her as a “young woman.”

While each of these people, as well as ourselves, may hear this as flattery, in truth it reflects our culture's ageism and, more insidiously, our own internalized ageism. As always, the media is not going to change its language or anti-aging propaganda – after all it sells products. We need to make the change within ourselves. None of those mentioned above are young people. Rather they, like ourselves, are olders living full lives as best we can. Let's proudly claim our old status. To once again  paraphrase Ram Das, let's: Be Old Now.

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