The month of May marks celebrating older Americans and their contributions and raising awareness about issues related to age and ageing. Consequently, they observe “Older Americans Month”. According to the United Nations Organization (UNO), the average life expectancy of a person in the 1960s was 52.5 years old. Today, it is 72.7 years old. Culminating May with the Glossary of Ageism, let’s dig into the real meaning of “old age” in the first place.
Dictionary.com defines old age as “the last period of human life, now often considered to be the years after 65.”
Moreover, the UNO often uses the age of 65 in data on older persons. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) lowers the number to age 60. The World Economic Forum (WEF) defines old age as beginning at a country’s average age of death minus fifteen years.
All this doesn’t land on a precise inference as to when old age begins. Above all, Dictionary.com polls reveal that “the younger you are, the sooner you are to believe that a person enters old age”.
OLDER, SENIOR, AND ELDERLY
Older, senior, and elderly are the three terms that have managed to earworm into heads for a long time. Given that “senior” and the “elderly” usually imply frail-looking individuals, many people have raised objections to the words and have found them condescending.
As far as the widely-accepted word “older” is concerned, it is seen as the most neutral, the most factually accurate since everybody is older than someone. Also, it has the least implications for a particular person’s lifestyle. Older is often used as an adjective to refer to specific groups, such as “older passengers”.
AGEISM | Culminating May with the Glossary of Ageism
Ageism is defined as “a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment”. (Source of definition: Dictionary.com)
According to the WHO, “Ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age”. Ageism contributes to hostility between generations and can have significant medical and economic impacts globally.
While ageism is often considered from the perspective of prejudice against older people, it impacts the fresh-bloods too. This comes with the usage of belittling terms and language, negative lifestyle, or negative stereotypes of younger generations, etc.
AGEIST LANGUAGE IS EASY OT IDENTIFY
There are many obvious terms that are considered insulting or belittling when used to refer to older people and are pretty easy to identify:
- old fogey
- old man/old woman
- old folks’ home
These terms are euphemisms. In this case, the euphemisms don’t directly refer to a person’s age but mean a person is of old age. These include:
- over the hill
- golden years
- past one’s prime
- senior citizen
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