elder, not elderly

Forty is the old age of youth. Fifty is the youth of old age. According to this, I`m a spring chicken in the elder club!

Here in Canada, we joke about our obsessive attention to political correctness. But I am proud of our desire to use language that does not diminish others by focusing on what is considered a weakness or disability in the eyes of society. A current trend is to rid our language of ageism. We no longer speak of old folks or even senior citizens. Elders is becoming the proper, politically correct term.

Elders connote wisdom gleaned and earned from a rich, full, and long life. Our mainstream North American culture has much to learn from other cultures who truly respect the elders in their families and communities. We can learn to respect those who nurtured us when we were too weak to care for ourselves. Caring for them in return is not a favour to be performed grudgingly, but an obligation given out of gratitude and love. We can learn how to seek the wisdom of those who laid the foundation for our own lives. Our knowledge may be `newfangled`, but true wisdom is timeless and must be passed on through the generations.

Of course, we can`t generalize any population group. Not all babies are cute and cuddly all the time. Not all teenagers are raging parcels of roller-coaster hormones. And, not all elders are gentle, compassionate wisdom figures. But we have much to learn from those whose shoulders we stand on.

My next few blog posts will reflect on elders, especially their roles, gifts and needs in our church.