The language we use about older people is incredibly powerful. Sadly, there are still so many ageist attitudes towards older people and lots of ageist language and images in everyday use, reinforcing negative stereotypes about older people.
The Centre for Ageing Better published a report last year, ‘Doddery but Dear’? on older age stereotypes, especially in the media. And Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, has blogged about the need to change news media portrayals of older people.
As Mervyn Eastman has observed, compassionate ageism which treats older people with pity can be as harmful as ageism which treats them with contempt.
The Centre for Ageing Better has produced an age-positive image library aimed at tackling negative images stereotyping later life (the ubiquitous wrinkly hands, the stooped older people with walking sticks crossing the road, etc.) which is a great proactive step to take.
Recently, I came across an excellent guide on how to use language to describe/refer to older people in non-ageist ways, from the Age Platform Europe website. Their summary table is below, and I hope it will be of interest.
I recently tweeted about this, and there was a huge response, with people from a wide range of contexts and organisations saying they were going to take it up/share with others/incorporate into training and educational programmes. I myself am including it in guidance to contributors to a edited collection on law, ageing and society. These may be small steps, but they can be powerful ones, which can bring us closer to thinking about ageing and older people in non-ageist ways.
Hopefully, some of you reading this blog will also find the table below a useful resource.
Source: Age Platform Europe (2021) Short guide to avoid stereotypical communication when talking about ageing and older people, https://www.age-platform.eu/publications/short-guide-avoid-stereotypical-communication-when-talking-about-ageing-and-older