Language and Ageism

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Despite the incredible growth in older demographic age groups, especially the cohort of people age 65 to 74, we still suffer from the use of condescending language when it comes to the aging process. I know I cringe when someone in a store calls me “dear”. I’m not their “dear” and the use of that word is patronizing at best.

I recently saw an ad for Ford, the largest American car maker. It portrayed a woman probably in her mid to late 40s talking on the phone to her mother saying “WiFi– it’s not a question, mom, it’s a thing”. Apparently nobody told her that WiFi has become a “must have” in retirement communities around the country. I know I’m not the only one that felt this was incredibly condescending and I made a mental note to drop Ford from my list of possible car manufacturers for my next purchase. The purchasing power of those of us who technically qualify as “seniors” (another word I don’t like much) is enormous. Older adults are rapidly becoming the largest market segment in society and will possess the most purchasing power of any demographic, according to a task force at the International Longevity Center in New York. So it’s time for all of us in day-to-day conversations, in marketing campaigns, and generally as we interact with older Americans to “watch our language”. Get the picture?

I’ll be making a presentation on the psychology of aging at the Leading Age Conference in New Orleans being held October 29 through November 1. Hope you’ll attend.

Helping Hands Across The Water

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Every July 4th weekend, Bob and I help out at the Feed the Need fundraiser at our area yacht club in Pine Beach, New Jersey. The event features a sailing regatta powered by local children who race each other down and back along the Toms River. Over one hundred little skippers take to the water that day from communities all over the area. Its lots of fun for so many reasons, not the least of which is that we raise a tremendous amount of money for the local food bank.

This year, I had the pleasure of manning the registration table with a lively 8 year old named Vivien who handed out the tee-shirts to all the sailors. Working alongside this smart and caring youngster all day long was at times funny and exhausting! I’m so glad I could keep up!

My intergenerational experience reminds me that we can and do work side by side with each other no matter what our age, especially in service to others. We may find it rewarding and sometimes challenging, but we are always ready to lend a hand when needed.

As we remember all those that served this country on this Independence Day, I say hoorah for all those seniors who continue to pitch in whether at home or in a retirement community and congratulate them on their vitality and desire to stay connected to others.