Careless talk costs lives – mind your language on ageing

While huge sensitivity is taken with terminology relating to race and gender preference, it remains open season for attitudes and descriptors related to ageing ‘I am troubled as a columnist at the degree to which casual ageism is tolerated in newspapers and the media’ This column tries to alternate a focus on ageing, the key social advance of the last century, with reflections on broader perspectives of medicine and society. Several events this month compelled me to merge the two aspects by exploring how we talk about and contextualise ageing. On a positive note, the editors of the main geriatric medicine journals have finally come together to reframe their language on ageing. Just like charity, age-attuning begins at home. While covering many important advances in ageing research with rigour, up to now the journals had been sadly disrespectful of the wishes and insights of older people, with frequent references to “the elderly”, “seniors” and much terminology of decline and burden. Rather than describing ageing in terms of struggle, we can describe ageing as a dynamic process that leads to new abilities In a revelatory position paper, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society outlines how the wonder of ageing […]

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