The management at a dear friend’s assisted care facility just informed her that she would have to move from her ground floor apartment to one on another floor. Why? Because her floor was to become a ‘memory care community.’
“What on earth is a memory care community?” I asked. In short, a floor (or wing, or facility) dedicated to treating (or warehousing?) people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I suppose it’s no longer proper to refer to such places as an Alzheimer’s wing or the section for patients with dementia.
So it goes in the land of politically correct euphemisms. As Susan Jacoby points out in her new book ‘Never Say Die,’ we dare not say the word ‘old.’ Old is out. Senior is in. Erectile Dysfunction is in. Impotence is out.
At the risk of sounding tedious, try these: infant is OK. So is toddler. Pre-teen works. As do teen-ager, youthful, and twenty-somethings. But as age creeps upward, the language shifts: Don’t utter middle-aged. Proper usage calls for ‘mid-life.’
Even the marketing gurus at ‘Elder Hostel’ have re-branded their venerable organization ‘Road Scholar.’
When it comes to our ‘twilight years’ (sorry), be careful. Something in our psyche flashes yellow and says: “Warning! Watch your language.”
Think about it: Why do we feel compelled to tiptoe around words associated with aging? Sooner or later all of us are going to be old. So, what’s wrong with using the most direct word to describe that stage of life?
Let’s hear from you: Why do you think we shun words about being old when we have no compulsion to re-name other stages of life?