It keeps us young
I wrote a newspaper article describing a branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A). It was given the sub-title ‘It keeps us young’ by the editor without my knowledge or consent. I objected on the grounds that it gave a totally misleading impression of the nature and purpose of the U3A, one which may lead people to suppose that members were striving to be ‘young’. This experience raised the question of the language used to describe those in the Third Age, a controversy in which a number of contemporary gerontologists are involved. It is suggested that some writers are reinforcing the concept of ‘the Ghost in the Machine’ that is commonly held by many lay people, and this leads to confusion about self-identity among those in later life. It is argued that elderly people will be able to map out strategies for successful ageing only if they come to terms with accepting themselves as being old. Longstanding ageist prejudice has tended to create a negative aura surrounding words such as ‘elderly’ and such words need to be rehabilitated.(Accepted March 16 2000)
Key Words: Third age; language; ageism; dualism; self-identity.
c1 Address for correspondence: 10 Manhattan Drive, Cambridge, CB4 1JL.