The Effects of Using Negative Language


Are you accomplished, enlightened, learned, sage and wise? Or are you confused, decrepit, incompetent and declining? The language used to describe aging, the way people talk to and about older adults, and the way we talk to and about ourselves matters. If you say ‘I feel old or over-the-hill,’ your mind believes every word you say.  Your mind and body act in a way that matches how you describe yourself. Don’t refer to yourself as ancient or as an antique, even jokingly, because it causes your mind to picture what that is – and your body works to meet the picture. When you feel tired and look tired, don’t say ‘I look old’ which becomes a more permanent state of affairs, say ‘I look tired,’ which is a temporary situation. 

Also, watch that language of saying 'they' and 'those,' and make it about 'us' and 'we.’ "We're all aging, every day. It is about ‘us.’ 

And I want everyone to know that we can find things to call ourselves besides ‘Senior Citizens’ to help change and clarify who we really are and what it means. The word “elderly” labels older people as being infirm, frail and dependent. It is most definitely a judgment and labels an entire cohort of people, based on age, in a negative light. It’s not unfair to say that society in general considers all people 65 years and older as “elderly”. In reality, there is a lifetime between a 65-year-old person and a 90-year-old person.

Instead, ‘Older Adult’ is factually descriptive and confers no judgment. ‘Older Americans’ is a good alternative to ‘Senior Citizen’ in this country.

Language is everything and if we know who we are and who we want to be, we can change others perspectives as well.

M Samela Dingus