From the Washington Post, Laura L. Carstensen a professor of psychology and the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. professor in public policy at Stanford University writes about the complex issues of language when addressing our generation.
The word old seems to rub Boomers the wrong way. Many in their 60s and 70s simply don’t consider themselves “old” as they continue to live productive, active lives. Some try to distinguish between young-old and old-old too.
The conversation has been happening actively since the 1970s when Carstensen heard Maggie Kuhn, who co-founded the anti-ageism group Gray Panthers, speak. Kuhn called on olds to own the word. It didn’t stick, though there are still some adherents.
The author finds some resonance with the word perennials
The symbolism it connotes is perfect. For one, “perennials” makes clear that we’re still here, blossoming again and again. It also suggests a new model of life in which people engage and take breaks, making new starts repeatedly. Perennials aren’t guaranteed to blossom year after year, but given proper conditions, good soil and nutrients, they can go on for decades. It’s aspirational.
Perhaps we are reaching a tipping point — a shift away from the fear of growing old and toward embracing living long. “Perennials” may just move the conversation along.
Link to the full article: In search of a word that won’t offend ‘old’ people
Author Laura L. Carstensen