Sticks and Stones

Much has been written about the various impacts of aging Baby Boomers, and to the list of affected areas we can now add: speech itself. True to form, Baby Boomers have already indicated a strong resistance to past mores, in particular the language used to describe aging. Words such “elderly”, “nursing homes”, and “seniors” are received with scorn and frustration by Boomers who are both frustrated by what the words symbolize and the clunky manner in which they attempt to euphemize the aging process.

“Nobody knows what the right language is, to be honest,” said Kathryn Roberts, the CEO of Ecumen, a senior housing services network. “But I’d like to think that this language piece is a placeholder for a much bigger cultural revolution that says we’re not going to think about aging in the way we have.”

While some may view the parsing as trite, we see it differently. Though we’ve said it many times before, it clearly bears repeating. Details matter. They really do. People’s experience is framed and defined by details, and from details they derive great meaning. It’s why we think the little things are worth paying attention to, and why we’re neither surprised nor unsympathetic to Boomers’ rejection of the lexicon.

Maybe it is time we reframed the conversation—and what better place to start than with the words we use to have it?

Hal Ebbott