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Change the conversation and the way we think

Our mental models about age and older populations are formed early and reinforced daily through various institutions: the media, schools, government, business and non governmental organizations. Stating, "She is 85" can create a negative image.

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Written by DeletedUser

Well-being is a combination of a positive self-image and cultural context. By labeling each of us according to our age, we are instantly classified. "She is 85" brings an image of grey-haired, wrinkled, physically slower, retired. Instead we should say, "Julia likes practical jokes, chocolate, water skiing, playing basketball, singing gospel and growing flowers."  By describing Julia according to her interests rather than her chronological attributes, we can turn the daily conversation from one of labeling to one of mutual interest. 

From the description above, Julia sounds like a lot of fun and could be any age from 8 to 85. The next time you speak or write about someone you know, lose the labels, instead honor who they are.

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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Wonderful insights Tracy! Labels can be very harmful – but interestingly I think they can also be empowering. How might we rethink the vocabulary and language of ageing to inspire positive associations, instead of negative judgments?

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DeletedUser

Ashley, I'm open. My perspective is very Westernized. I was trained in the positivist, scientific way of thinking and like to have my information organized into nice neat packages. It is a tall order but changing the way we teach our 4 year olds could be a good start. The concept of "old" or "ageing" is foreign to a toddler until we introduce it.

Please share your examples of empowering labels, I would like to hear more.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Sure thing Tracy – the first example that comes to mind is the label 'feminist'. For a long time (and for some people even now), feminist was a dirty word. But I now know many women (myself included) who feel empowered and more confident through the adoption of the label. Seeing myself as a feminist has added value to my identity, even when others might use the label out of judgment or negativity. So for this challenge, I'm curious to think about how we might take a label like 'old' or 'elderly' and encourage people to adopt it as a term of empowerment and positive identity, rather than for ridicule or diminishment.

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