Don’t Label Me Elderly!


Several years ago, I read about a lady who was hit and killed in a crosswalk here in Toronto – the newspaper headline read “Elderly Woman Killed in Crosswalk”.

Upon reading the article, I discovered that the “elderly” woman had just turned 65, the same age as I was when I read the article. I was incensed – what did they mean “elderly” – I certainly didn’t feel “elderly”.

Discussing this with my friends, many of whom are, themselves, official, card-carrying seniors over the age of 65, they were all annoyed, usually responding with a sympathetic groan.

Age is just a number – what’s “old”? If you’re 5 years old, anyone over 15 appears grown-up. If you’re 15, you think anything over 30 is old. But if you’re a Boomer Adult in that 50 to 65 age range, chances are that you don’t consider yourselves as elderly, either, and I doubt that you would even consider people in their 70s to be old.

The reality is that each of us has 3 types of age:

  • Chronological age (when we were actually born)
  • Functional age (what we can do)
  • Subjective age (how old we feel)

If you ask a group of people who are over 50 how old they feel, they’re going to respond that they feel at least 10 or 15 years younger than they actually are. That’s why it’s such a shock to most of us each time we unexpectedly glimpse ourselves in a mirror and don’t immediately recognize ourselves. In our minds, we are not as old as our faces and bodies present.

The fact is, we automatically tend to associate “elderly” with frailty and senility – the littler old white-haired grandmother knitting in her rocking chair; the little old man, stooped over, using a cane as he
walks slowly up the street.

Well, guess what — I’m well past 65, but don’t label me “elderly – I run a successful business; I’m active in the community; I travel frequently and have no problem driving alone to Myrtle Beach or Galveston or Ottawa to visit my family; I encourage and enjoy one-on-one time with each of my 10 grandchildren – who range in age from 2 years to 24 years, and consider me their “cool” grandma. I might be older, but I’m not old.

And your parents or grandparents, who are still living independently and are managing quite successfully, thank you, don’t think of themselves as “elderly” either. Like me, they’re likely willing to
admit that they’re older – but don’t call them “old”. Because they aren’t!

Libby Handler is a Certified Consultant on Aging and Aging Issues. Visit her at

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