The electronic freeway sign said “MISSING ELDERLY GOLD TOYOTA AVALON.” It probably included a license number, but that’s all I had time to read as I sped by.
Why would anybody steal an old car?
I know, I know. The sign meant “missing elderly person.”
Why couldn’t it just say “old man” or “old lady?” In block letters, “old man” would use exactly the same number of characters and spaces as “elderly” (seven), and “old lady” would add only one more. If the sign used the gender-specific terms, at least we’d know whether we’re looking for Grandpa or Grandma.
Are we so caught up in political correctness that we can’t refer to an old person as old? Must we edit the inevitable? And isn’t this ageism? “Elderly” implies that there’s something wrong with being old, that age has to be repackaged in gentler terms. The way I see it, growing old is a direct result of living. That’s not so bad.
I don’t consider myself old, though surely some people do. After all, my generation was warned not to trust anybody over 30.
As a writer, I might use “elderly” as an alternative to “old,” to avoid repetition, and “senior” in describing a discount. But “elderly” as a noun? No way. Not only is it a euphemism, it’s an adjective.
The copy editor in me objects. So does the old lady.