Maybe It’s Time to Change the Language:  A Message to our Media

Published in the Style Section of yesterday’s Washington Post is an ageist article by Avi Selk, entitled:  ‘There’s so many different things!’: How technology baffled an elderly Congress in 2018.”   Once again, our media chooses to blame ignorance, stubbornness, refusal to change with the times on AGE.  As I wrote in a previous article, Old White Men, people don’t become retrograde because they are old; they’ve always been that way.  

At age 92, my mother was one of a handful of people among her friends and colleagues who was tech savvy. She was the first resident at the older adult facility where she lived to require that her room be accessible to wi-fi so she could use her laptop.  If she wasn’t ‘baffled’ by the internet, why should some of the most educated, worldly, and wealthiest members of our society find social media such a mystery.  It’s just not plausible in this time of unsurpassed longevity to blame the confusion among the Luddites in Congress on their age.  It is an insult to the rest of us who have changed and grown with times.

Further, our leaders don’t have to possess the tech skills, knowledge and talents of a Mark Zuckerberg or a Sundar Pichai, they only have to surround themselves with people who do. And guess what, those people do not have to necessarily be young.  We (this writer is 73 years old) grew into mature older adults on the waves of the technology revolution.

I want to be clear here that I am not advocating for a congress or a workforce to be made up of people solely of a certain age.  TheRadicalAgeMovement is completely devoted to and supportive of an intergenerational workforce AND an intergenerational Congress.  I am just saying that lets not use AGE as a scapegoat for the ills of a substandard workforce or Congress.

Selik’s article focuses on the older age of our Congress as if It is some kind of anomaly, when it should be accepted as normal progress that as our society stays healthier and lives longer so will the people who work in our businesses and institutions. In an intergenerational environment everyone learns from each other, young and old alike; and the average age of those bodies of people must rise as the age of society rises. This is a societal and economic necessity.

The language in this article exhibits for all to see the way we demonize the aging process and the meanings we infuse into the simple word “old”, particularly when it’s used to describe a person or body of people. The author uses words like “hobbled into extinction” and talks about leaving the Internet “strewn with a fossil record of an obsolete species”.  We would not accept this language if it was used to describe, not an aging body of people but, a gay body of people, or a black body of people, or a religious or immigrant body of people.  Regardless of our political leanings, using AGE as a negative descriptor is just plain unacceptable.

Alice Fisher, Director & Founder
TheRadicalAgeMovement, NYC
3 January 2019

Click here to read original article.

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