The headline, published in the newspaper and online this week, reported on yet another victim of the terrible toll of Toronto’s deadly streets: “Elderly pedestrian killed at crosswalk,” it stated.
Peter Pellier, a longtime Star reader from Oakville then posed a valid question to me about why the headline labelled the victim as “elderly.” It is a question that comes my way just about any time that vague descriptor is used, sparking the inevitable question: “How old is elderly anyway?”
“In the interest of accuracy why does the Star use this term given its highly subjective nature?” Pellier asked. “For the record, I am 73, and most assuredly, do not consider myself elderly.”
Another reader, who said he is 70, expressed a similar view of the headline: “You are being ageist and I am fed up with it,” he said.
The pedestrian who was killed Monday morning while using the crosswalk to cross McCowan Rd. on the north side of Steeles Ave. was a 79-year-old man. But, at the time his death was first reported, his exact age was unknown and the Star relied on information from police that referred to this victim as “elderly.”
While it is always preferable to be as precise as possible in both headlines and articles, the use of the word “elderly” seems understandable to me in this case given these realities. Had the man’s age been known at the time, the headline would have better stated, “Pedestrian, 79, killed at crosswalk.”