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Letter: Being 'old' has a nice ring to it

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To the Editor:

A discussion of how to address elderly people on Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” one morning this week prompted me, as one who accepts participating in that category, to reflect on the topic.

My initial response was that, just like people in other definable groups (Native Americans, feminists, gays, African-Americans or blacks, religious organizations, people with disabilities, etc.), the elderly have the right to name themselves.

Subsequent reflection leads me to remembering that there are a number of respectful and affectionate usages of “old” which are probably acceptable to most of the elderly as well as the great majority of the general population, e.g.: old friend (an ageless term), old pro (admiringly), old boy/girl (popular in England), old hand (experienced), old love (former object of affection), etc.

Therefore, I suggest that the best descriptive word when referring to the elderly is the very good, simple and honest word, “old.”

Needless to say, such unpleasant experiences as pain, dementia, depression, and disability, although they may be increasingly common with aging, are not to be equated with the term “old.”

If a person is hurt by, or otherwise objects to, being called old, thoughtful people will avoid that appellation to him or her. The old joke was, “Call me anything except late for dinner.”

Personally, I do not feel insulted or devalued by being called or described as “old,” and I invite others, including elderly people, to contribute their ideas to this discussion.

David Harris

Red Wing

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