July 18, 2022
"Don't call me that!" says the 'old people'

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

The language of ageism is both subtle and in-your-face. The latter ones are, for obvious reasons, easier to catch… though not necessarily easier to get rid of.

After all, ageism is rooted in our collective fear of aging. And for as long as we are afraid of something that happens to all of us, humans will continue to speak and behave in ways that project that fear.

But there’s a whole huge generation of people rising up to the ageist language and beginning to crack the lid. The more vocal of the Baby Boomers (the oldest of this generation turn 78 in 2022) aren’t swallowing the dismissive language.

They’re speaking up and pushing the conversation — which is all the better for everyone else especially those of us at their heels in the next generation.

It starts with us checking ourselves.

As with most everything else, self-awareness is key. The subtle language of ageism will persist if our day-to-day speak is laced with insensitive words and phrases that sneak by as socially acceptable.

  • All too often, we can be our own worst enemy. We already live in an ageist culture, which guarantees that we will at some point (if you haven’t yet) encounter ageism, age discrimination, and age stereotypes. The last thing we need is for ourselves to add to the pile by engaging in ageist SELF-stereotypes and using language that demeans ourselves. How would we live if we forgot we were over 50?


Yes, this is a big issue. It’s societal, it’ll take years to fix. But we’ve got to start somewhere. And with the world’s population projected to swing older in a few years, our collective voices may finally reach the critical mass we need to turn this Titanic.

Mull It Over

“Despite popular belief, age isn’t just a number. It is one of the many things that describe us and make us the beautiful individuals that we are. When someone singles out that one characteristic and ascribes value, attributes, expectations, or abilities based on that, we lose sight of a person’s real potential and value.” — Jordan Evans, Anti-Ageism Advocate

Book Recommendation

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
by Ashton Applewhite

In our youth-obsessed culture, we’re bombarded by media images and messages about the despairs and declines of our later years. Wrinkles are embarrassing. Gray hair should be colored and bald heads covered with implants. Older minds and bodies are too frail to keep up with the pace of the modern working world and older people should just step aside for the new generation.

Author, activist, and TED speaker, Ashton Applewhite once held these beliefs too until she realized where this prejudice comes from and the damage it does. In this lively, funny, and deeply-researched book, she examines how ageist stereotypes cripple the way our brains and bodies function, describes what an all-age-friendly world would look like, and offers a rousing call to action.


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.