“Dirty Words” the Series, Avoiding a Faux Pas

“Aunt Edna lives in a rest home in Pittsburgh.”
“She works at an old folk’s home.
“His parents moved to a home last year.”
“My neighbor just visited a retirement facility.”

These bolded terms are like nails on a chalkboard to many of us who work for Messiah Lifeways. So this week we continue our blog series to identify more dirty words and phrases given to the places where older adults, baby-boomers and those 55 and better may want to live and call home. We will also highlight some of the more contemporary vocabulary so you can help us change the conversation about aging.

Let’s start by going way back with glum terms like:

Sanitarium: rather scary
Sailor’s safe harbor: huh?
Almshouse: that’s so 1800’s.
Rescue: we know that one from our early heritage.
Home for the aged: yikes.

Ok, those names are out of circulation, so help us do the same for these next terms, some of which I have heard all too recently:

Rest home: for narcoleptics, I guess.
A home: that simple “a” in front of it gives it a negative connotation.
Convalescent home: straight out of the 1980’s.
Old folk’s home: that’s just not nice.

My personal favorite is when someone lumps all levels of living together and calls it a facility. Such as saying “my aunt lives in a facility across town”. It sounds as if she lives in an institution or a military installation or worse yet – a bathroom! “I had too much lemonade, and I need to use the facilities.”

The term facility is very main stream and is used to generalize a number of different levels of living, but like rest home or old folk’s home, it needs to go away or be used less frequently or as a blanket term. Over the last two decades industry marketing efforts as well as government agencies have dropped the term facility for home, residence or living, because they offer a more accurate representation. You’ll likely recognize personal care home (PCH), assisted living residence (ALR), independent or residential living. Several more contemporary and suitable terms usually contain the word community, such as active adult community, continuing care retirement community, (CCRC), 55+ community, and retirement community .

(The word “facility” just doesn’t do justice to the 3 pictures above from the Messiah Village campus)

It is also essential when referring to a specific level of living, that you identify it as such. There are significant differences between them – sometimes subtle, sometimes great. Quite honestly those living in a CCRC, assisted living or active adult community don’t want to be lumped in with a broad term like facility. Now I wouldn’t call facility an appalling word, but it just not representative of what and how older adults view where they live. That word pigeonholes them. So no more faux pas’, be sensitive, be in the know. They want it be known as my community, my village, my residence, my home.

Again, please join the conversation. Also stay tuned for next week’s post in the “Dirty Words” Series, “You Called a Resident What?!”

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matt is the Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways. He brings nearly 20 years of experience in counseling, advocating, and guiding older adults and caregivers through many of life’s tough decisions. His diverse background of working in hospital and rehabilitation settings, community services, and senior housing gives him the breadth and depth of knowledge to provide unique solutions, opportunities, and help individuals proactively plan for the future. He serves as the Lifeways Coach and as a writer, blogger, podcaster, and speaker for Messiah Lifeways, located in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Enhanced Living (Personal Care) at Messiah Village

Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab at Messiah Village