[VIDEO] Elderly? Senior citizen? Modern elder? Some of my thoughts on terminology

What’s the proper way to refer to older people? If you are getting up there yourself, how do you like to be addressed?

Maybe you prefer just to be seen as a human being and not defined by your age. Or maybe you are proud of your age and prefer terminology that honors the experience and wisdom you have to offer.

In this video, I share some of my own personal views on the topic. Take a look.

I’m curious what you have to say about these particular terms, too. Please take a moment to share which of these you particularly like or hate in the poll below.

Which term are you the most comfortable with?

If you answered “None of the above,” feel free to add what terminology you do prefer in the comment section at the bottom of this post.

Of course, we’re not the only ones with some strong feelings on terminology. The excerpt below from Beth Baker’s excellent book on aging in community,  With a Little Help from Our Friends, has some further examples.

“In a New York Times “New Old Age” blog, experts were asked what to call this demographic group now that baby boomers are among its younger members. There was little agreement–seniors, elders, the elderly–none seemed quite right. Even the word “aging” itself is so associated with decline that many reject it. (Teddi, seventy-six and a resident of the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, told me she preferred the term “recycled teen.”)

“The culture’s problem is that we split aging into good and bad,” Thomas Cole, director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, explains, “We’re unable to sustain images of growing older that handle the tension between spiritual growth, the good, and physical decline, the bad. In the Hebrew Bible, aging is both a blessing and a curse. But our culture can’t achieve this kind of synthesis.”

A senior cohousing community in Santa Fe even decided to change its name from ElderGrace to Sand River because of the connotation. “The main reason is, we have some men in our community who didn’t want to tell anybody where they lived – they felt it created an image of gray-haired people walking around with walkers,” explained Marty, a resident there. “People asked if it was assisted living. I actually had someone I ran into who came to dinner and she asked if we’d sold the last two units in ‘ElderCare.’ That convinced me.”

In a 2013 piece on NPR headlined “For Elder Midwife, Delivering Babies Never Gets Old,” about a 71-year old practitioner, a huge out-cry erupted over the label “elderly,” including a complaint from the midwife. (As an example of how language evolves, one commenter on a Washington Post blog reminded readers that humorist Stan Freeburg in 1957 rewrote the lyrics to a classic show tune, singing “Elderly Man River,” since the word “old” had been censored.) In fact, journalists are now advised to avoid any descriptor such as “elderly” for fear of offending someone. “Use this word carefully and sparingly,” according to the Associated Press Stylebook.

What are your thoughts on the appropriately terms to use for folks as they age? Feel free to join the conversation in the comments below or in our thread of the Women Living in Community Facebook page.

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Aging in Community 2019 Update

Progress in the Aging in Community Movement: 

Three Themes You Need to Know About

In 2019, today’s elders are taking ownership of aging in community like never before. As I’ve been tracking the developments, some major themes have started standing out, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share them with you now. 

When I look at the movement today, I’m equally excited by how far we’ve come in some areas and daunted by how far we still have to go in others.

Recent trends in aging in community show a generation that is revolutionizing how people we will live in our homes and stay connected with the community as we age. I outline what I view as some of the biggest successes and challenges of our movement below.

Together, we stand poised to change the face of aging in our society. But we’ll only get there if we show up and do what it takes. 

I’ve been hard at work for the last several months working on my own foundation for aging in community. I urge you to do the same.

Theme #1: Aging in Community Approaches Critical Mass

When I first started writing, speaking, and organizing about this topic more than ten years ago, there weren’t that many people who were talking about aging in community. There were just a handful of leaders out there with a limited audience of people who were taking the topic seriously. 

And it was a little frustrating sometimes talking over and over with people who seemed to be waiting for someone else to build their ideal community for them and just tell them about. And that’s NOT how it works.

But I don’t feel like I’m a lone voice in the night anymore. Today, it feels like we are turning a corner with enough of us waking up. More people than ever are taking ownership of how and where they are going to age and who they are going to do it with. There is a momentum caused by enough people getting involved and becoming for the change they want to see in the world that the Aging in Community movement is making real progress. 

Charles Durrett leading a cohousing workshop

I see this in news sources I watch where there are headlines about new communities, housing alternatives, related housing initiatives, and resources in the news everyday. 

I see it in changes in legislation like the Golden Girls Act up in Canada. 

I see this in educational programs and workshops that are taking place this year like Charles Durrett’s workshop at the 2019 National Cohousing Conference. I have a presentation coming up myself introducing alternative housing choices to a new group near Asheville, NC locally at a retreat in October 2019 called 50Forward.  

I also see this in the thriving online communities that are really growing and buzzing with activity, particularly on Facebook. Some are general interest groups about housing alternatives for older folks like Sixty and Me. Others serve the needs of specific groups, such as Elder OrphansWomen Living in Community, and Decolonizing the Crone

And it’s all happening because enough people are showing up and making it happen. 

Theme #2: Boomers are Leading the Residential Revolution in Community Building, Especially Cohousing

Interest in community living has also really picked up steam for people of all ages have gotten tired of living in an isolated world and refuse to do it anymore. But its older people who are leading the charge in most cases, cohousing in particular. 

More than 160 cohousing communities have been formed in the United States since it was introduced to the country in the 1980’s. At least 125 additional cohousing communities are being developed right now. 

And, if you visit most of them, you’ll find that the founders and most of the people living there tend to be  boomers who have chosen to age in community and made it happen. 

If you would like to dig deeper on this trend, I have some further resources below:

Theme #3: Unprecedented Pace in Creating More Alternative Structures & Repurpose Existing Structures 

It doesn’t seem like a month has gone by that I haven’t heard of some exciting new developments in alternative housing design. And most of these structures are designed for boomers who have realized that they are the first generation to be able to choose what types of structures they are going to age in a way that no generation before could have dreamed was possible. 

Here are a couple of examples of alternative structures that can easily be incorporated into aging in community.

Minka Homes

The latest creation of Dr. Bill Thomas, Minka believe it’s time for a new housing story. Minka designs, pre-fabricates and delivers sensibly-sized kit homes that can either stand alone, act as accessory dwelling units or be combined to develop pocket neighborhoods.

She Sheds

A small building separate from the main home, reserved specifically for the use of an adult woman, in which she can relax and pursue her interests. While they were designed to be the female equivalent of an outdoor man cave, they can also provide community designers with interesting options for pocket neighborhoods.

Repurposing Existing Properties for Seniors in 2019

At the same time, there is a growing interest in finding innovative new ways of repurposing structures that we already have. And seniors sharing homes has been on the rise for a while now.

Several years ago, I lived in a community for seniors on this model in which I lived with a handful of other great women (click here for a video all about it). Together, we lived in a house that was originally designed for an average family that we repurposed for aging in community as women living together in an intentional environment.

Here are three examples of similar projects that are getting off the ground in 2019.

  • The Oak Hill coliving home is an example of something similar that formed in 2019 thanks to Canada’s Golden Girl Act. 
  • Hibiscus Commons is a new senior cooperative housing project that is part of the Bay Area Community Land Trust that has a focus on exploring affordable options. They are doing so by finding ways to repurpose unused or underutilized properties. 
  • Village Hearth is an LGBT-focused, ages 55+, community in Durham, NC, with 15 acres of wooded land just 20 minutes from downtown. 

These are just a few examples of the types of projects that have gotten established recently. There are many more.

My recent experience with some of the above:

Until early 2019, I was developing a pocket neighborhood that was designed to incorporate both repurposing an existing home and building new modular structures for aging in community. 

This included using a mid-century ranch house that would have functioned as a community center and coliving opportunity for a few people, plus a series of six to twelve modular homes for people desiring shared space.

You can learn more about this project in my own 2019 personal update

Moving forward and what’s to come

The Grand Nudge wants you to take ownership of whether and how you age in community.

While there’s a lot to be excited about in the world of aging in community, it’s important to understand that your ideal community isn’t just going to land on your doorstep in 2019 or any time soon. As some of you know, that’s a message that The Grand Nudge believes in very strongly.

It’s up to you to take ownership of how you age and be the captain of your own quest for home. If you are new to the topic or could use some tools in exploring this journey, I encourage you to explore my book, My Quest for Home.

And there’s also a lot that still needs to happen moving forward within the Aging in Community movement, particularly in the areas of affordable housing, getting local governments on board, and creating good matching services for senior housing. 

I hope that you found this update on themes I’m seeing in the Aging in Community helpful. 

If you’re not already signed up, be sure to subscribe for updates from the Women Living in Community Network now. That’s the easiest way to know when a new post has been published. 

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WLIC Blog


Go Local for Community Resources

Over the years I’ve met many people in the community movement who have been my inspiration and education.  I’ve been fortunate to have a few right in my own backyard (so to speak).  Here are profiles of 3 such people who have been instrumental in my quest for Community:

LEADER IN ECOVILLAGES AND INTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES

dianeleafchristianDiana Leafe Christian breathes, writes and lives about community, specifically, Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.  “Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life.” (Source).

She doesn’t just write about it, she lives in one in Black Mountain, NC called Earthaven (www.Earthaven.org).  This community was formed in 1995 and is now up to 55 full-time residents with diversity in age and background.

Living in an Ecovillage is not just about being sustainable but also how to get along and make decisions. Diana teaches workshops and writes about “Sociocracy,” a way of consensus building in community.  To get an idea of what it means, you can view a Youtube video here, “Diana Leafe Christian – Decision-making in communities + intro to Sociocracy 1“.

All of those seeking to learn about or who live in community have probably come across Communities Magazine. Diana was the editor from 1993 – 2007.  In addition to editing, Diana also published several books about Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.  Her books are considered the “bible” for community (click on titles to view on Amazon):

creatingCreating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community

What more can I say? How fortunate am I to have her this close?

 

LEADER IN DEVELOPING COMMUNITY TOOLS FOR COLLABORATION


zellemaureen
Zelle Nelson and Maureen McCarthy
are a dynamic couple I met over 1o years ago while on my search for alternatives to lawyers and litigation in community forming documents. They live in Western Carolina in the small town of  Flat Rock. They are the founders of The Blueprint of WE (initially known as the “State of Grace Document) that later became The Center for Collaborative Awareness. The Blueprint of WE is a collaboration tool that can be used by businesses, in family, in groups  and of course, in community. It starts with you and custom designs a collaboration process for building together and is a guide when conflicts arise. You might think of a relationship as you and another person but with the Blueprint of WE, it’s “You, Me and WE.” blueprint

I encourage anyone who wishes to have better collaboration and communication in any personal, community or business endeavor to explore this fabulous tool.

LEADER IN BEING PASSIONATE
gregg
Gregg Levoy  is an author who writes and speaks about passion and callings – what inspires you, what defeats you, what drives you. Gregg does not work directly in the Community movement but what he writes about is important to anyone interested in living a purposeful life with passion. I met Gregg at a workshop over 12 years ago in California and found out a few years ago that he lives in Asheville, NC!
His latest book, Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion has made him a favorite at the conferences on aging due to the nature of the topic and his workshop leading skills. It examines the endless, yet endlessly fruitful, tug-of-war between passion and security in our lives, asking yourself questions like: How do you lose passion and how do you get it back? His other book, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, explores how to cultivate passion as a mindset to add vitality to your relationships and work.
Love his website (http://www.gregglevoy.com/) which is full of great stuff.  One of my favorite things on his website is the music and movies he recommends. http://www.gregglevoy.com/vital-signs/music-movies.html but you can also see his workshop schedule. I encourage you to attend one.
As you can see, there are some dynamic  people here in western North Carolina and I only touched upon a few.  We also have great resources which I will write about in a future blog as part of my ongoing desire to serve. In the meantime, please share with me your resources or if you found any of these helpful or inspirational.
Helpful hint: If you’re getting this post by email and have a comment to share, please click here and reply at the bottom of the blog post so that way, your comments can be shared with everyone!

Community or Place: A Look at Our Needs Vs. Our Wants

To build from my last post, which looked at the importance of connection as we age, I wanted to expand more on the key elements of successful “Aging in Place” and how the principles for building a community provide the alternative many are seeking.

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Community vs. Place: Why It Matters

Let’s take a closer look at aging in community and what makes it a different, and in many cases preferred, from aging in place.

Elderspirit 2007

In Spring of 2015 I opened my mailbox to find the newest edition of Communities Magazine. In it was a fantastic article by Margaret Critchlow called “Senior Cohousing in Canada: How Baby Boomers Can Build Social Portfolios for Aging Well.” Since this is right in my own wheelhouse I quickly devoured the article.

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Women’s History Month: Elsie Frank

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When I started researching for Women’s History Month I was surprised to discover very little information about women who have made a difference in the lives of aging Americans. I also learned that some extra digging can bring up a lot of great information if you’re willing to put in the work. Below the surface of Women’s History are the stories we don’t always celebrate.

One such story is that of Elsie Frank.

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The Me vs. We Generation

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In a recent magazine article that I clipped, and I can’t for the life of me remember which magazine it was clipped from, was this quote:

“In one of the greatest ironies of history, the Me Generation will transform into the We Generation in their later years.”

Of course this quote spoke to me because I am one of the people dedicated to helping our generation make this major shift in consciousness. But what does it mean to be a We Generation?

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Making Winter Easier

persephone in winter

Wintertime is stressful for a lot of people. The cold is just one aspect. For many others it is the darkness of the shorter winter days that becomes overwhelming. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a category of chronic depression exhibited by extreme mood shifts strictly to the darkness and grey days. Of course, depression is just one of several reasons that the wintertime can be hard, especially for older adults. We believe that community living could be just one possible answer for many people.

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How Names Influence Perception: Community and Aging

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You know what I don’t like? I don’t like the word “elderly.” I’m not a big fan of “senior citizen” or “person of a certain age,” either. There is no perfect option it seems. When you go to a store that offers a discount by age they call it a senior discount. I sometimes think I would like to hear “wisdom discount” instead.

See, the words we use have meaning. For instance, “elderly” and “elder” have entirely different connotations. I don’t need to tell you which one is negative. Yet, our society doesn’t see much wrong with the use of these terms to describe individuals past middle age. I admit, I am not even a particular fan of the term “Baby Boomers.”

So where does this leave us? Well, as it turns out I am not the only person who isn’t a fan of the names we currently use for people in my age group.

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Women for Living in Community: Plan for Joy

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When I first read Martha Beck’s “Plan for Joy” in O Magazine I was immediately engaged. This is what I had always imagined as I planned for my own life. I firmly believe that planning for the worst but hoping for the best is a defeatist attitude that will likely only lead us directly into our own worst case scenarios. While knowing how not to panic in an emergency is an important life skill, so is knowing how to cultivate happiness in our lives. Rather than reinventing the wheel I thought I might share with you my insights on Martha Beck’s own ideas.

Beck’s blueprint is:

  1. Have a vision.
  2. Let go of what doesn’t work.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  4. Pay attention to what really matters to you.

Here is my take on these four steps.

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Women For Living in Community