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What if someone called you, Geronda? Or if you are female, what if someone called you Gerontissa? I think it has a wonderful ring; it sounds mysterious and a little racy. Actually, it means old man or old woman in Greek. As a Senior traveling in Greece, you might not know if it was complimentary or derogatory? Words are containers; the contents differ greatly by definition, context and the person speaking. Consider these titles: Senior, Elder, Oldster, Pensioner, Patriarch, Chief, Paterfamilias, Matriarch, Progenitor, Crone, Sage. Does the title create an image or convey a message? Which do you prefer? Much is written these days about what older people want to be called, especially the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964. Researchers say their preference is Boomer; they are no longer babies. Besides Boomer sounds strong and explosive. It certainly doesn’t sound mysterious and racy!

Titles are potent and our culture attaches significant meaning to them. Recently a friend whose heritage is Chinese told me that he was traveling in Hong Kong, after living in the United States for 50 years. While on a train, a young man called him “old man” in Chinese and jumped up to give him his seat. My friend was taken back momentarily, but the title “old man” was used as a term of respect and honor; of course you would give up your seat to such a person! So the lesson here is to use words of respect when speaking to others, especially Elders. Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue has the power of life and death. While words themselves are neutral their contents are potent. Whatever title we use to address our Elders, it needs to be honorable, respectful and full of life. I’m personally fond of Gerontissa!

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