I find it quite grating that our local journalists and reporters often use the terms 'old' and 'elderly' to refer to people who are still vey much alive and kicking, and far from approaching the end-of-life phase. I suppose to these young media folks, anyone aged above 40 is definitely old and elderly.
When I started my community blog in May 2008, I had come up with several tentative names for the blog. Unfortunately all of them were rejected when I signed up for an account with Blogger. Every single one of the names I keyed in had already been taken. I must have tried at least 20 names. In frustration I gave it one final go with 'Seniorsaloud'. The name had popped into my mind at that last minute. To my surprise, it was available!
Both my daughters didn't like the name at all. They felt that with a name like Seniorsaloud, the blog would attract only old people. Of course, I went on the defensive. What did they mean by 'old'? I was about to turn 60 at the time, and didn't feel at all a day over 40. Neither was I frail, and definitely nowhere close to being senile and decrepit.
|The new 'old' - Prof Emeritus, Dr Khairuddin Yusof, 76, |
enjoys extreme sports. He spoke at our Seniorsaloud
event on "Retire Healthy" in July 2012.
The problem with labels is they are generic. 'Old' people are painted with the same brush, and in the same grey colour. But there are so many different shades of grey. Author E.L.James will give you 50! If the 50+ and 60+ are not quite ready to be called old, how would you address them? The 'young old'? That doesn't work either. And are the 70+ the 'old old'? What other terms of reference do we have? The pre-war and post war generations? Equally cumbersome and inadequate.
|Dr Yusof's book on active ageing|
So until we come up with age appropriate labels, I suppose baby boomers like us will have to forgive the young for addressing us as 'old' and 'elderly'.
If numbers don't matter, and chronological age is not an accurate indicator of physiological age, what are we left with? How would you like to be referred to? 'Older people' seems to be the least disparaging and most neutral. With people now living much longer, there is a need to come up with new labels for the old (pun intended) that do not smack of ageism, and that is acceptable to all.
|Photo taken in 2014 when my mom was 88, and I was 66. A generation apart but young reporters would lump us together as 'the elderly'.|
If the 60s is the new 40s, you can understand why labels like 'old', 'elderly', 'frail' no longer describe the active, independent and fun-loving baby boomers of today. By the time we reach our 70s, 80s and 90s, we will be re-defining the face of ageing.
Adnan Osman, 70, cycled all the way to London for the 2012 Olympics. Inspiring role models like him show us that growing older doesn't have to mean the end of fun and adventure. The world is still there for us to explore. There are new things to learn, and new friends to make. Indeed, growing older can be an exciting new chapter of life.
Postscript: I have always wanted to have a column in the newspaper to write about topics and issues of interest and relevance to senior citizens. If that ever happened, it would be a dream come true for me. Maybe I would call it 'Silver Threads'. It would also be a channel to share information and personal insights on matters that involve this demographic. Our numbers are growing. Other than writing letters to the newspapers, we don't have an avenue to voice our concerns about a host of issues that affect us, including healthcare, cost of living, public transport, affordable housing, re-employment, age-friendly public facilities, retirement planning and end-of-life issues.
It's about time to speak out and be heard. And that's why I have a new tag line for SeniorsAloud's FB profile picture: 'A Voice for Seniors'.