Friday, August 31, 2012

The 20s: Our Hardest Years

Being 20-something isn't what it's cracked up to be, even when the economy's good.

Too much sturm und drang. Too many paths not taken.  Too much angst.

Check out what Wendy Lustbader has to say and be be grateful for your stage of life. On Huffington Post. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Transition Network: More than Just an Idea

Here's a story about a group I've meant to drop in on. It's not called "Women in Transition," though that's what it's about.
 I've been transitioning so much I haven't had the time.
So Inquirer freelancer Sally Friedman beat me to it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Anna Quindlen on the "E" Word

In her new book,  “Lots of  Candles, Plenty  of Cake,”  Anna Quindlen does her own riff on the word “elderly.” (I was happy to see I’m in good company).  As happened to me,  it's a news story that ticked her off. In her case, it’s when the writer describes  a couple fending off a burglar as "elderly." The woman was 68. "How is that elderly/" Quindlen says she "ranted." "That's not elderly!"
So Quindlen seeks out journalism sites and writing stylebooks “to nail down the cutoff point for "elderly."
She finds that it’s a “moving target.” According to a Pew research report she discovers,  “most people said old age begins at 68. But most people over the age of 65 thought it was 75.” She researches her own clips.
"I discovered to my horror that I had used the adjective with casual regularity.” Though as she edged toward  her current age,  60,  her usage dwindled. 
“As I aged, ‘elderly’ seemed more and more pejorative … In other words, old is wherever you haven’t gotten to yet.”
“It’s all relative,"she writes on page 106, " the way it was when I got pregnant for the first time at 31 and everyone in our two families thought I’d left it rather late and everyone in our urban friendship circle thought I was rushing into it…. When people lived to be 65, 60 was old. When they live to be 80, 60 is something else. We’re just not sure what yet. A friend told me she thought it was summed up in the message inside a birthday card she got from her mother, ‘ After the middle ages comes the renaissance.’”
"So we face an entirely new stage of human existence without nomenclature, which is an interesting challenge, because what we call things matters. That’s why I recoiled from ‘elderly.’ The words we use, and how we perceive those words, reflect how we value, or devalue people, places and things. After all, one of the signal semantic goals of the early women’s movement was to make certain grown women were no longer referred to as ‘girls.’”
Thanks, Anna!
Some of you offered your own thoughts about the “E” word, after my blogs on it..(Elderly, take1 ; take2
“’Elderly’ should be banned." “
That’s what Libby Rosof suggests. “It’s a political statement. I have a 90-year-old friend who’s damned spry and hardly elderly. Just say how old, not characterize. That’s my solution.”
“How about ‘sixty-something’ or ‘seventy-something,’ or is that too cute?” writes a college classmate.
And here is a suggested style book entry for my favorite newspaper,  from one of its former reporters.
Murray Dubin, writes:

 “Using ‘elderly’ does imply frailty and should not be used unless the physical stature of the person is important to the story. Adjectives describing age and appearance are charged with meaning. Be cautious using them.  As a guideline. leave them out and use exact age – where appropriate – or no age reference at all.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More on the Dreaded "E" word ...

Since I chastised the Philadelphia Inquirer the other day for calling "elderly" a feisty 66-year-old who held on to her money while being pummeled by a mugger, I got a copy of its stylebook entry for the word.
A newspaper's stylebook is where --after painstaking thought and consultation with many --
it documents guidelines for reporters' usage of all kinds of words and phrases. The Inquirer's stylebook was launched and carefully nurtured over a couple of decades by Gene Foreman, who was also a stickler for ethics and went on to write "The Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Pursuit of News."

So what do you think of The Inquirer's stylebook entry below? Is mid-70s "elderly?" (I recently wrote about a man nearing 70 who called himself "middle aged." ) How old do you have to be to be elderly? 

Were my parents "elderly" when in their 70s, they brought their skis through customs and the customs official laughed and, in disbelief,  asked. "What are those?" (Whether elderly or not, they were insulted.)

Is "senior citizen" better?

Got better words for the media to use? Please let me know so we can nudge them in that direction.

elderly Avoid the uncalled-for use of this term. See senior citizens.   Edit   |   Delete

senior citizen Use this term only when referring to people of general retirement age, in the mid-60s, or older. Elderly and elderly people also may be used when referring to people in the mid-70s or above - but because these terms can connote frailty, be cautious in employing them.

P.S.  The reporter who wrote about the 66-year-old being mugged did break the style book rules.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ban the Dreaded "E" word!

How is it that in one newspaper on one day, you can have one man, age 55, described as "charged as an electrical cable... just hitting his stride...[wants] nothing less than to change the world..."
And at the same time have a 66-year-old woman who fought back a purse snatcher described as "elderly"?
Is this what happens in 11 years? Suddenly you cross 60 or 65 (or become a grandparent)  and you're "elderly"?
Or is age in the eye of the beholder?
The story about the 55-year-old was written by a reporter close in age to that of her subject, who happens to be the dynamic Zeke Emanuel (brother to Rahm). The other was written by a reporter some two decades younger.
Or does it have to do with length and depth of reporting?
The Emanuel piece was what we in the trade call an in-depth profile, in which the reporter uses a variety of sources, including time with the subject, to capture his personality. It probably took at least a week to report and write.
The other was likely tossed off in 20 minutes after one phonecall to police. But does quick reporting have to fall into stereotypes? The unnamed woman was described by police as "like most grandparents, a little feisty." She tried to fend off her attacker -- who was nearly a foot taller than her. And even though his punches left her with multiple facial fractures, she still held on to her money.
This is "elderly"?
I say journalists should ban the word "elderly." Let the facts speak for themselves. And if that E word must be used, reserve it for the "frail, elderly," those who because of age and physical change can no longer move around independently.  And even then, note should be taken of the vibrancy of their minds.
Otherwise, the important impact to be made by the legions of unretiring boomers, now leaving their jobs and bringing their energy into new places in their communities, will be diminished.
Away with stereotypes!