What do you call someone over 55? Older, aging, elder, senior — how we describe ourselves in the second half of our lives makes a lot of us uncomfortable. And some of us at the Encore Purpose Prize conference in Tempe, Arizona, raised the language issue and wonder if we can’t do better.
It came during a small group discussion with Nora Super, executive director of the White House Conference on Aging. She wanted ideas for the next aging conference. We’ll get to the agenda suggestions in a minute, but first the language question.
Super said, “It’s a big country,” and pointed out that in many places language like “senior” as in “senior center” is deeply embedded. But terms like “elderly” and “senior” and other catchwords and phrases widely used today may prevent some from getting involved in projects or embracing work that seems to ghettoize them.
Now sure, we’re aging. No denying it. But the way we use words shapes our perceptions of ourselves and may have an impact on the way others view us.
Dr. David Whitelaw, winner of the 2014 Eisner Prize for intergenerational advocacy, said, “As a doctor, I know there’s nothing more important than language and the words we use to explain things.”
While many of us at the conference don’t like the current vocabulary, there’s no consensus about the terms we should use.
Any ideas? Send them our way here at ConsumerMojo. Just comment below, or email.
Back to the plans for the upcoming Conference on Aging. Executive Director Super said they plan to focus on four areas.
1. Financial Security
“We’re looking for ways to help people save, to invest in their futures,” she said.
2. Long Term Services and Support
” We need to start thinking about how can we prepare better for people who need support,” she said. She explained that her team would like to put emphasis on helping middle class families.
3. Elder Justice
This would emphasize prevention and protection of people vulnerable to fraud and financial abuse.
4. Healthy Aging
This discussion will target disease prevention and management.
The agenda is a rough outline and the White House Conference on Aging plans to solicit ideas on its website. So keep an eye out.