She says perennial, I say old

If I want to live this stage with integrity, I’ll have to accept the words that describe it.

Senior works well for shopping discounts, reduced fares, certain kinds of residences, and moments. Like the senior’s moment I had last week when I busied myself making gravy for our family Christmas dinner, forgetting for the entire process of collecting the ham juices, whisking in flour, adding salt and pepper and water and cream, that scalloped potatoes were bubbling in their cheesy sauce in the oven; gravy was not required.

Elder has overtones of honour, carries benefits and responsibilities, though elderly seems more bent and frail.

Old is a fine word, perhaps the best, a one-syllable word that sounds good when I say it, when I hear it: the opening “o” of awe or surprise, tongue tip reaching up then for the “l” and dropping decisively for the “d”. It’s accurate, the opposite of new or young.

     Old is a fine word, perhaps the best.

Old, of course, is broad. I think it’s fair to nuance older person with categories like young-old, mid-old, old-old. My current experience of aging is quite different, after all, from my 95-year-old mother’s.

A Washington Post article, “In search of a word that won’t offend ‘old’ people” by Laura L. Carstensen recently appeared in my Facebook feed. Carstensen says that decades of trying to persuade people to wear “old” proudly have failed and suggests a word coined by Maureen Conners: perennials. I’d already drafted this post and recoiled. Perennials? That’s as bad as the obituary euphemism passed for died.

I, for one, will try to use old with pride. I’ll try not to be offended by it.