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Is Age 68 Elderly? Here’s What You Said

A newspaper's definition of 'elderly' has our readers talking


Yesterday we wrote about a California woman who objected to a newspaper labeling a 68-year-old woman “elderly” in a news story. We created a Twitter poll, asking what you thought about the issue, and got a strong response. (Eighty-nine percent of respondents, by the way, said a person should “think twice” before calling a 68-year-old “elderly.”)

Your comments on Twitter, Facebook, and on yesterday’s story were so compelling that we wanted to share some of them with you, all in one place. (Note: some comments have been edited for length and clarity.)

Here’s some of what you had to say:

“This is ridiculous. Would the press describe a 25-year-old as ‘young?’” –R.K.

“86 is elderly; 68 isn’t.” –D.T.

Responding to D.T. (above): “86 isn’t necessarily elderly. Depends on ability to function.” –L.S.

“It’s a useless word in most media stories. What’s the purpose? What does it add?” –L.P.

“I’m 69. My best friend is 71. We’re having a great time! Elderly has to do with health and attitude.” –D.J.P.

“I googled ‘elderly.’ It appears the official definition is anyone who qualifies for Social Security and Medicare.” –E.P.

Elderly is a mindset.” –M.R.

“I’m 71. Arthritis keeps me from doing much, except walking and yoga, but I also volunteer twice a week teaching English. I belong to a meditation group, a knitting group, my husband of 51 years is living, and I have friends of all ages. I’m not elderly.” –S.R.

If you have to ask, the answer’s no. You’re as young as you allow yourself to be!” –V.M.

“Being an ‘elder’ or a mentor or ‘wise’ are positives. Saying someone is ‘elderly’ is a reference to severely declining health and mental abilities in very old age.” –S.D.

Just give the age. Let the audience add the adjective.“–K.L.

Why label anyone? Give a reason why labeling anyone ‘elderly’ is necessary. Can you really not discuss whatever you need to discuss without that label?” –H.H.

Your age is not a consideration in being ‘elderly.’–J.M.

“Depends.” –E.H.

Maybe at 88.” –L.H.

Hillary Clinton is 68. She is running for President of the United States.” –B.K.

What about the term ‘geriatric?’ Is that better, or worse? I work with a geriatric program, and that technically includes anyone over 60.” –L.J.

I’m 73. I do not consider myself elderly! Middle-aged, maybe.” –A.W.

Stop using the term entirely.” –M.M.

I’m 68 and happy to be called an elder. Nothing changes in society unless we challenge the status quo. There are other labels I personally believe are worse, e.g. referring to women as ‘guys.’ I challenge that regularly.” –M.T.

Not if she’s healthy.” –C.Z.

To me, a Native American, it is a title of respect, earned by the experience of age, and not an insult. It’s a compliment. I’m 59 and proud to be an elder!” –L.W.

True old age doesn’t begin until 80.” –S.K.

You can be an ‘elder’ or a ‘senior’ without being ‘elderly’. Elderly is the way you act.” –K.A.

Is it okay to call someone 17, 18, or 19 a child?” –A.H.

Elder, but not ‘elderly.’” –B.L.

I’m 68. I refer to myself as ‘in my third act.’ I am not elderly, nor am I a ‘senior.’” –L.L.

Just say the age and be done.” –R.S.

What do you think? Have more to add to the conversation? Chime in below, in the comments section.

Want to join our lively, interesting conversations on Twitter? Come on over! You can find us as @NextAvenue. Don’t forget: the fastest-growing group joining social media is older Americans, and it’s no surprise why.

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