Elderly and Women

16 Jul

A local newspaper which will remain nameless, recently published an article about an “elderly” woman. She was 67. The classification of 67 as elderly has festered ever since. I have been tempted to write a letter to the editor but it would have been drowned in the miss placed support for Texas legislative actions. Maybe the two are actually connected in ways I hadn’t considered. Maybe it is not just senior citizens who are maligned but women in general. I seriously doubt that the paper would call a 67 year old man elderly.  Let’s look at each element here.

What is the age appropriate classification for age 67? Or in reverse, what is the age listing for “elderly”? A search for elderly on Wikipedia produces an article on “Old Age”. It describes “old” as a cultural classification beyond middle age. It also includes elder as other terms along with seniors and senior citizens. I don’t have an issue with elder (makes me feel like the wise woman of my small tribe) or senior which means I qualify for special discounts but elderly just grates on my nerves. A survey of our collection of Webster’s unabridged dictionaries produces a definition of “somewhat old” and only the 1904 adds ” bordering on old age.” That does not appear in versions from the 70’s & 80″s nor in the online Webster’s. They add “not young”.

So now lets set an age for middle age and elderly. Middle age clearly means middle of life. At best we can expect to live to 100 but more realistically 85. Divide those by 2 and you get 42.5 to 50. I have to side with Katerine Hepburn from On Golden Pond on this one rather than Henry Fonda. He is correct that most people don’t live to be 120 but early to middle 60’s to me is still middle aged. Old and elderly implies frail and best refers to people who are in their late 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. Those were the same people who should not have been trusted if they were over 30 in the 60’s. The only age classification that I’ll embrace is “Boomer” and I’m proud of it. Of course I don’t expect to be frail until I’m into my late 90’s!

I live in Texas which is clearly a part of the South. Women are delicate flowers who should be protected from the cruelties of the world and are totally unable to make decisions for themselves about their own lives. They need a big strong loud mouthed man to make those decisions for them. Our health should only be addressed in the big cities at hospitals.  Maybe I moved to Texas to don my crusader rabbit hat. I may be too late for the 40 clinics that will be closed but I can join the fight to change a poorly designed law. Save your pennies for me. I may have miss being arrested in protests against the war in the 60’s but there is still hope for the future.

PS It seems that the same unnamed newspaper is carrying an editorial today on the use of terms to describe older citizens. “The stylebook for the Tampa Bay Times, for example advises writers to use “elderly” sparingly: “It is not appropriate in describing anyone younger than 80. In most cases, it is better to simply give the person’s age than to characterize it.” On that point at least I can rest my case. I may send that letter to the editor after all.

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