That headline is the theme of a speech given a couple of years ago by Kirsten Jacobs, the education manager for LeadingAge, a highly respected association of more than 6,000 not-for-profit, member organizations in the United States that provide care and services for elders.
These are such places as hospice, assisted living, legal services, senior centers, meals programs, nursing homes, transportation, even Villages and more.
A critical purpose of all these agencies and organizations is to improve and expand services for elders so more of us can remain in our homes as we get older because there are not nearly enough residential care settings of all kinds now – nor will there be any time soon - to house our growing numbers.
What Kirsten was referring to with “no cute old people” is, of course, ageist language, something regular readers of this blog recognize as one of my signature rants.
As I have written here many times, we are bombarded from the cradle with negative stereotypes about old people and hardly anyone notices, let alone objects - even many old people.
But besides being rude and irritating, negative images and ageist language have serious consequences. Yale professor, Becca Levy, has found that one's personal perception of old age affects longevity more than even such factors as gender, loneliness, health and socio-economic status.
Having a positive perception of aging, Levy's studies show, can extend life expectancy by more than seven-and-a-half years. (Read more about that here.)
However, that is background and I digress. I'm really here today to tell you about spending a couple of hours with Kirsten Jacobs last week discussing all these issues and more.
It was such a pleasure being with a like-minded person as ardent as I am about language, especially one who spends her working life thinking about these issues as she develops educational materials and resources for the members of LeadingAge.
Maybe you could say elders are a family business. Kirsten lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Jake Kirsch, who works with Network for Oregon Affordable Housing (NOAH). They are also the new-ish parents of an 11-month-old.
It always thrills me to meet young people who make elders their life work. We old folks need them in our lives.
Kirsten cares deeply about old people, she dislikes euphemism and ageist language as much as I do and she wants to change how our culture thinks about aging.
Here is that “No Cute Old People” speech she gave at the annual meeting of LeadingAge members in 2013. I'm pretty sure you're going to like her as much as do.