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Grey Tsunami: A Dangerous Metaphor in Aging Discourse?

Dr.Michael Gordon Michael Gordon, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Medical Program Director, Palliative Care, Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System, Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.

Physicians are used to using language in very special ways. We combine the normal syntax, grammar and rules of our mother tongue along with the special clinical terms derived from Latin or Greek which are often anglicized in North America. But there are terms used in the English language that we tend to avoid because they have associated with them negative stereotypes about certain groups of individuals and over time, no one would use some of these terms in public. The term tsunami has entered the lexicon recently of terms used to describe the challenges of the aging population. Its use has entered the popular media and amongst policy makers. Physicians must be attuned to the negative stereotype associated with the use of this term to describe the older patients that we collectively care for.
Key Words:Language and negative stereotypes, media use of terms, stigmatizing the elderly with words.