The Next Chapter

Why Carl Honoré wants us to celebrate that aging is inevitable

The journalist discusses writing Bolder, a book about what it truly means to be seen as old.
Carl Honoré is an award-winning writer, speaker and author. (CBC)

This interview originally aired on May 11, 2019.

Carl Honoré is an award-winning writer, speaker and author. His latest book, Bolder, explores what it means to get and be perceived as old in today's society.

He spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing wrote Bolder.

Getting older

"I love playing hockey and I was in the quarterfinals of a tournament and enjoying myself immensely. I was leading my team in the semifinals and floating on air. In the dressing room, it was brought to my attention — very suddenly — that I was the oldest player at the tournament.

"This piece of information hit me like getting cross-checked in the face. All of these dreadful questions crowded in and I was thinking, 'Should I really be here? Are people laughing at me? Should I be thinking about more gentler pursuits like bingo?' This wall of shame, guilt, doubt and dread — all the things that I think we feel about aging collapsed on me. 

"I wanted to know if there was another way of thinking about aging, if there was a good news story to be told about growing older."

Finding the right words

"A big part of the book is looking at how we tackle and change language. Language shapes the way we feel about ourselves, our place in the world and it shapes the way people see us. We're marinated in language that's ageist, that tells the same grim downbeat narrative about growing older.

"That 'getting older' is about being unhappy, useless, unattractive, all that stuff. It's woven into our vernacular. We talk about a 'senior moment' or 'you look good for your age.' People say things like, 'Oh, I'm showing my age.' What they mean by that is not a good thing. I was grappling all the way through the book trying to find the right language because this is part of the the next stage for us, to discover new words new ways of describing this luminous journey that is life.

"Growing older is part of life, but we've turned it into a chamber of horrors and that's reflected very much in the language we use around it. I didn't even come up with the perfect word for an older person — I dance around different terms and so on — but I ended up settling on older. That felt more open, elastic, less judgmental, less of a cubby-holing of people. As soon as you start saying even something like 'old,' it feels like the last train station on the line somehow."

Carl Honoré's comments have been edited for length and clarity.