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January 18, 2018 8:43 pm  #1

One Of The Most Dreaded Words In TV News Returns

When is a person officially deemed “elderly?” The question came back up again on Thursday, after reporter Janice Golding was doing a stand-up at the scene of a fatal accident on CTV’s Toronto noon news.
Twice during her piece, Golding referred to the 73-year-old victim as “elderly.” Now in case you think this is another example of modern day political correctness gone mad, you should know that this discussion has been going on for years, even in the pre-social media days. The phones in the TV newsroom where I worked used to ring off the hook if someone called a person of a certain age “elderly.” And the bar for that apparently dreaded word kept moving.
“I’m only 69,”I remember one caller ranting in my ear. “And I don’t consider myself ‘elderly!’ Yet that woman on TV called a 70-year-old man that and I think you should apologize!” There were more just like him who phoned in that day, and it was a gripe we would hear for years, especially when the reporter uttering the apparently taboo word was fairly young.
So what’s the age threshold for terming someone “elderly,” especially when so many believe that 70 is the new 50? Is it OK at 75? 80? Surely someone at age 90 wouldn’t object. But there are a lot of sensitive ears out there and in this day and age, it seems everybody is just waiting for a reason to be offended.
My advice has always been to avoid the word altogether. But it appears some reporters just can’t follow that rule. Even if they’re “senior” correspondents.


January 18, 2018 9:07 pm  #2

Re: One Of The Most Dreaded Words In TV News Returns

RadioActive wrote:

So what’s the age threshold for terming someone “elderly,”...?.

Like life itself, it's difficult to define. However, if they're phoning in half-coherent polemics between 8 AM and 6 PM local time they're either elderly or intellectually challenged. Either way, you are taking advantage of them and that is not nice.


January 19, 2018 5:41 am  #3

Re: One Of The Most Dreaded Words In TV News Returns

The 'elderly' designation can be solved by the media by dropping the outdated 'senior' and 'elderly' as descriptors. Their use is inaccurate, possibly offensive, definitely problematic. Just report the age. The elderly 80 year-old? It's like using the word very to describe hot. Lazy and unecessary. "The 80 year-old" is a clear fact, and good reporting will get the message across if the person was in frail health etc.

The media is successfully replacing the word 'fat' with the word 'curvy.' Kudos to them for tactfully working on "the other O word." If, to riff on 'R.A.'s words and 40 is the new 20, and 100 is the new 80 - does this mean youth is no longer wasted on the.... nope, we're all just getting old(er). ;)

Last edited by betaylored (January 19, 2018 6:15 am)


January 19, 2018 8:06 am  #4

Re: One Of The Most Dreaded Words In TV News Returns

I started at the Montreal Star at 17-years-old. I was a junior police reporter and reported on someone in their 30's killed in a car accident. To me at 17, someone in their 30's was pretty old. So I referred to the victim as a middle age man. The desk editor comes up to me and says if he's middle age what am I ... I'm 50!

It was a learning moment as a reporter for me. Age is best described in years in your stories - especially when you're young. As a 17-year-old, the victim was middle age. In reality he was in his 30's. Now that I'm 66, I would describe him as a young man.

A 71-year-old is only five-years older than me. My ego wouldn't let me refer to the guy as elderly. He's an old man, just like me. Call him a senior citizen.

I think when someone is in their 80's they are elderly.

The safe designition for a reporter or anchor is to to refer to anyone over 60 as a "senior citizen" because at that age Via Rail offers them a "senior's discount". If it works for VIA, it works for me. 


January 19, 2018 10:47 am  #5

Re: One Of The Most Dreaded Words In TV News Returns

RadioActive wrote:

  When is a person officially deemed “elderly?” 

A person is elderly when they complain about the price of a cup of coffee going up a nickel or a 25 cent fine levied for an overdue library book, but at the same time are comfortable with the market value of the home they purchased in 1965 for $16,000 increasing by $8,000 a month


January 19, 2018 11:50 am  #6

Re: One Of The Most Dreaded Words In TV News Returns

If a newsroom copywriter is 25 years old, he or she might consider someone around 70 'elderly', but why use that word at all?  The legal definition of a senior citizen in this country is 65 year of age.  Just refer to anyone from 65 up as a 'Senior', which is accurate, and less offensive to those of a 'certain' age.