A whole bunch of readers sent me the link to an NPR story about what names old people like and don't like to be called. For me, the first problem was the NPR headline that referenced “the over-65 set” in a manner that felt mildly patronizing.
They report that an NPR correspondent discovered how passionate elders can be on this topic after a story about al 71-year-old midwife was broadcast:
"Listeners were furious," Jaffe continues. "Maybe once upon a time, 'elderly' referred to a particular stage in life, but now people think...it means you're ailing and you're frail."
Actually, elderly has meant “frail” for a long, long time – maybe always - and I'm with those angry listeners about that (along with some other words I don't like).
The NPR story page has a survey about names but as far as I can tell, has never followed up with results. So in a slightly changed form, I have created a survey just for us at Time Goes By.
(Some long-time readers may recall that this is not a new topic for TGB. We have discussed it several times in the past and even had a survey. But it's been a long while so let's see what the consensus is this time.
I've omitted several of the NPR choices because they mixed apples and orange – names for individuals who are old with names for the phenomenon of growing number of elders, like silver tsunami. I omitted the latter group for our survey.
Clearly, emotions run high on this topic; the NPR page has more than 400 comments and there's not a chance I can read them all but I certainly like the first one:
”I am a palliative care doctor. A couple years ago I was taking care of a woman in her 60s who had immigrated from Tibet. She was in the hospital, quite ill, and for a period of time became confused.
“I spoke with her adult son and daughter about end of life issues. One morning her son told me, 'She's awake and she is mad, she wants to talk with you.'
“When I walked into the room she sat up and waved her finger at me as she said, 'I am and old woman. I am responsible for this family. You should never have talked to my children.'
“The way she spoke old woman sounded like an honorific, 'I am an Old Woman.' A wise person, a responsible person, the guide and leader of this family. She made no effort to hide her age. My sense was that 'living young' would have been a failure in her mind.”
Here is the survey. I've also given you a place in the form to insert an additional name you like or dislike. I'll report results here on Tuesday 27 May.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today. Janet Thompson: The Box