About Positive Aging


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Language is a powerful tool in shaping our culture. WORDS MATTER, especially in the field of eldercare and aging services. The Center for Positive Aging encourages the use of the term “ELDER” to mean anyone who by virtue of life experience is here to teach us how to live. We especially like the following definition of an ELDER developed by Barry Barkan (The Live Oak Institute):


“An elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential and whose life continues to have within it promise for, and connection to the future.  An elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure, and his or her birthright to these remains intact.  Moreover, an elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.”


This definition does not imply a chronological age, which the term “elderly” does. We do not encourage the use of the word “elderly” for this reason.


Positive aging works to promote an appreciation of the different needs, abilities, and contributions of elders as they progress through their senior years. Ageism is a significant barrier to positive aging and is often associated with decline, dependence and frailty. These inaccurate perceptions about aging are what can lead to discrimination against elders. But, elders are not a homogenous people. Life expectancy has increased so much in recent years, and all seniors differ and play an important role in the economy and society as a whole.


Positive aging focuses on recognizing seniors as valuable members of our community, who contribute a multiplicity of skills, knowledge and experiences to their families and surrounding populations. Having a positive attitude towards aging is vital—it allows elders to continue to feel great and have a sense of control as they face a new and exciting part of the life cycle, without restricting or imposing on their abilities.



For more information on person-centered care and services (known as Culture Change movement), explore the following resources:



Profiles of Positive Aging