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What Not to Say When You're Older

Work to Bridge the Gap Between You and Other Generations


Updated May 13, 2014

Why is it that we tend to say certain things as we get older? Coincidentally, these phrases we catch ourselves uttering as we age, are often exactly the same ones we vowed we'd never use when our parents said them to us! Here's a list of what not to say, when you're older.

1. Just wait till you're my age

Winston Davidian / Stockbyte / Getty Images
Look, soon enough (God willing), everyone will get to your age. Only then will they know what it's really like, but until that time, the best way to bridge the gap between your age and theirs is to keep an open mind. Remember that life wasn't exactly the same ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, so chances are you don't know precisely what it's like to be them, either.

2. I don't know anything about iPods (or Twitter, or the Internet)

Loosely translated, this catchphrase can be heard as "I'm not interested in iPods" (or Twitter, or the Internet). Technology can be confusing, even overwhelming — and if you are intimidated by the array of devices on the market, that's understandable. But why not inquire about what the younger people in life are using their arsenal of phones or tablets, for? You may find you have a technology tutor at your disposal. Don't be afraid to learn something new; curiosity and variety are both good for your brain, and your relationships.

3. Do you know what that salt will do to you?

This is the downfall of the well-informed, and I'm sure my extended family members would tell you I've been guilty of this one! While news about health behaviors is most often delivered with the best of intentions, the recipient's appetite for their delicious meal can take a nosedive after a few pointed statistics on how fatal the ingredients are. Yes, sticking to a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen are crucial to a longevity lifestyle; still, don't ruin their pleasure by denouncing their food choices. Maybe it's just a matter of timing. Save it for later, and remember that everyone is on their own "journey to health".

4. Look at this thing on my foot!

Quite honestly, I'm not even sure your doctor wants to look at that thing on your foot, but at least they're paid to do it. A disheartening fact about getting older is that your body can go through a number of bewildering (and frustrating) changes as you age. Stripping off your socks at a family get-together to display one of them is just bad manners! Keep your lumps and bumps private unless somebody asks (and if they do, by all means reveal away.)

5. Anything starting with "In my day..."

Wanting to contribute to a conversation is a basic human need. But when it begins with "In my day", "back in the day", or similar variations, division between you and the other person can be created, because you're highlighting how different you are from one another. Our Human Resources guide Susan Heathfield has advice for the workplace on how to develop better relationships with diverse people on the job. Why not try bridging the gap between you and a younger (or older, for that matter) person the same way by inquiring about, and acknowledging, similarities and mutual goals or values? It's bound to boost a sense of connection and community.

Remember, getting older can be challenging, but as the late actor Maurice Chevalier is quoted as saying, "Old age isn't so bad if you consider the alternatives." Getting older means you're still here. Stay curious, stay connected, and reap the benefits of vitality and enthusiasm!




Healthy Aging: Keeping Mentally Fit as You Age. Geriatric Mental Health Foundation Public Information Sheet. Accessed February 11, 2013.

Sara A. Leitsch and Sharon Shiovitz-Ezra. "The role of social relationships in predicting loneliness: the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project." Social Work Research. 34.3 (Sept. 2010) p 157.

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