Watch what you say about old people

Pax Arcana

senile_agitationNot only are the elderly still feisty old codgers in the sack, now they apparently hate when you call them “elderly,” “feisty,” “old” and “codgers.”

According to The New Old Age blog at the New York Times, two prominent research centers focused on aging have published a style guide to help the media avoid using demeaning language when describing old people the elderly our ancestors Larry King people who just so happened to have born on a date preceeding yours by a significant margin:

In the glossary of the new stylebook, “Media Takes: On Aging,’’ the authors state their case against “elderly” as follows.

Use this word carefully and sparingly. The term is appropriate only in generic phrases that do not refer to specific individuals, such as concern for the elderly, a home for the elderly, etc. In other words, describing a person as elderly is bad form, although the generalized category “elderly” might not be offensive. (Suggested substitutions include “older adult” or simply “man’’ or “woman” with the age inserted, if relevant.)

Also to be avoided are “senior citizen” (we don’t refer to people under age 50 as “junior citizens,” the guide notes) and “golden years” (euphemisms are probably not the best way to go, we learn). “Feisty,” “spry,” “feeble,” “eccentric,” “senile” and “grandmotherly” are also unwelcome terms, patronizing and demeaning, as is calling someone “80 years young.”

I understand where they’re going with this, but I still plan on calling my grandfather a “feisty old codger.” I mean it’s only fair, since he calls me names like “I want applesauce” and “Please don’t lock me in the basement again.” Am I wrong?

Goodbye, Spry Codgers. So Long, Feisty Crones [NYT]


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