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!

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