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We know that language matters hugely – witness the huge efforts by people with dementia to eradicate using the word “sufferer” or “victim” to describe people living with dementia.

We asked people ageing without children what they thought of the term elder orphan; this is what they said

”’elder’ implies to me more wisdom & calm than I ever intend expressing & ‘orphan’, apart from being a word that seems to instantly strip a person of any empowerment, links too directly to being about a child, horribly ironically for the group it seeks to describe”

“An “orphan” is a person without parents. It doesn’t mean “childless” at all”

“It doesn’t make sense and it’s a horrible, ugly label to stick on anybody”

“I do not like it and feel it is awful that those who are growing older without children have to be labelled. It would be even worse if it became mainstream and in hospital along with the pitying look that you have no family or people around to help would be the pitying words “oh an elder orphan”. Aging Without Children is a good term to use, it is descriptive and not patronizing or make me feel even more feel pitiful as “elder orphan” does”

“Isn’t it natural for parents to generally die before their offspring? It sounds so dickensian to use the word orphan for older adults”

“Not keen on “elder orphans” as I think it trivialises older people and is not respectful, There are people who do treat older people like children already. It should be discouraged”

“ If they were using it to describe all older people because all older people at some point become orphans, I’d understand. But they’re not, it’s just single & childless/free older people”

“Awful! Presenting what for many is a choice as a deficit, and continuing the stigmatisation of childless/childfree women”

“nonsensical, incorrect and just a bit nauseating”

“My initial reaction was urgh! Orphan to me always has connotations around children & it feels to me as if they were equating older people without family with young children. Extremely ageist!!”

“I think this is horrific terminology to use, both words are insensitive. Once again society treats childless people as aliens and now make you feel even more isolated if you are single.”

So please don’t call us “elder orphans”

Ageing without Children will do just fine thank you

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