The International Longevity Center and Aging Services of California have issued a media guide for writing about older people, which lists acceptable (PC) words and unacceptable (non-PC) terms.

However, it really depends on the audience reading what’s written to define acceptable. Readers in their 20s or 30s said in a survey they would take no offense at reading “senior citizen,” for example. In fact, “senior citizen” is viewed as a neutral term by those under 54 but offensive by those 55 and older. Hmmmm….

Likewise, “retiree” is okay with those 54 and under, but disliked by those 55 and older. “Veteran” is acceptable to both groups, but that would seem to apply only to people who’ve served in the military, not generally to old coots. Oops, that’s a no-no that never should be used. My bad (even though I do qualify as an old coot).

Some terms to be avoided at all costs include “golden years,” “feisty,” “spry,” “feeble,” “eccentric,” “senile” and “grandmotherly.”

This is useful information for the workplace as well, so as to avoid EEOC and DOL inquiries and potential legal disputes over ageism or hostile environments.

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