A recent article in my hometown paper, the Star Tribune (Just don’t call me old: Baby boomers waging a war on words; Jan 4, 2015) reports the following nonsense:
“At Ecumen [an organization running senior housing and long-term care facilities in the Midwest] ‘facilities’ are now called communities. Condo buildings in the Twin cities are promoting their ’55-and-better’ living. The Bradshaw funeral business promotes ‘meaningful events that celebrate life.’ Nursing homes have become ‘care centers,’ and social workers have become ‘concierges.'”
Here’s my rundown on the “market research improvements” embodied in this “war on words:”
1. I have my own community, thank you. When I am of an age to require assistance that no one in my community can provide, I will seek the appropriate services in the appropriate facilities.
2. 55 is not always better. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not.
3. When I die I’d like a service to celebrate my life but I’d also like people to recognize I’m gone and that their days are numbered, too.
4. Re: ‘nursing homes,’ see #1 above.
5. To call a social worker a “concierge” is as politically and professionally incorrect as the worst abuses of words. These are the people we count on to protect children from abuse, to counsel struggling partnerships, to deliver the hard news of loss of independence to any number of the suffering. Please, if you want a concierge, go to a hotel.
I guess it’s evident I’m not all that impressed with boomerisms denying the aging process. Maybe it’s because my husband is a pathologist, or because my mother’s parents were both dead by the time she was twelve–or let’s see, because (as my sister repeatedly told her even very-young children) ALL LIVING THINGS DIE.
Don’t get me wrong: as a writer I’m familiar with the power of words. I like women to be called ‘women,’ and not ‘girls,’ ‘ladies’ and ‘gals.’ I try to use politically correct language when it seems more respectful, more reflective of a certain point of view. Language is, of course, how we describe reality, how we define the world in which we live.
But guess what, folks? Like my sister says, ALL LIVING THINGS DIE. That’s reality, and a universal truth. You don’t step on anybody’s toes when you say that eventually they’re going to die.
I think that’s the problem here. Some people (aka boomers, defined in Wikipedia as born between 1946 and 1964) apparently take offense to it. Dying, that is. Mortality, it seems. Instead, we’re supposed to covet images such as are presented in a certain Taco Bell ad described in the article:
“…seniors flashing nipple rings and misbehaving as they escape from the retirement home for a night on the town.”
OK, I’ve got work to do. I’d like to sell a book before I die. I’m not dead, but I am, certainly, dying. We have friends and co-workers our age who are are very sick, and some who have already passed. No one lives forever. That is the simple truth, and we’re far better off using it to get our asses in gear than to flash nipple rings.