This is in response to the letter “Golf Cart safety in Sun City Center,” published Nov. 15, 2018:
The letter began with Ms. Dudley’s “hope that golf cart drivers will pay attention.” Well, who among us (while driving) at one time or another has not paid attention to what was going on in traffic? For an example, I will admit that I have been cut off in traffic or I have unintentionally cut someone else off. Also, I have been at stoplights and began day-dreaming perhaps about what I wanted for lunch while all along having the person behind me to blow his /her horn because the light had changed to green.
During Ms. Dudley’s driving episode, she described the other driver as “elderly” and “oblivious to a potential accident that she almost caused.” Yes, thank goodness someone was paying attention, which is why it is important for drivers to drive defensively and to expect the unexpected. No one sets out in their day to purposely cause an accident.
While I understand Ms. Dudley’s frustration in a traffic matter, her use of the word “elderly” to describe the other driver seems to carry a negative connotation as if the way the person was driving was causation to her age.
In reading this letter, I began to wonder and ponder these thoughts:
How does one define elderly? Is it a person’s state of mind? One might say that a person’s age would suffice them to be an elderly person. Yet, what age would that be? Certainly, no one likes to think of themselves as very old. One might say that the word elderly is a person being feeble, dependent and physically inactive. This would be considered condescendingly offensive and politically incorrect if the person is not. Personally, I know many people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s who are independent and who are mentally sound and physically active.
The word elderly, in my opinion, used in Ms. Dudley’s letter, carries an “otherness” with it … almost like saying the hearing impaired or the mentally or physically challenged. It appears to create a category without acknowledging that the category is composed of individuals. In other words, it is impersonal and it is a bit like saying “those people.”
In many circles, the word “elder” is a title of veneration. As a youth, I was often told to respect my elders. In some religious groups, it is the elders who lead their congregations. Church elders can be young; they can be either male or female.
In the end, “elderly” may be more a state of being — or feeling — than a certain age. And the question may not be whether someone else thinks of you as elderly, but whether you think of yourself as elderly.
And, at the same time, it is worthwhile and sobering to remember that, sadly and tragically, many people never even get the opportunity to grow old. I thank God for the angels who protect me along the highway and have prevented many car accidents, and simply say, “thank God I am alive.”
Sharon D. Clayton, SCC