DEAR HARRIETTE: Sometimes the older people in my family use language or state ideas that, while OK when they were younger, are now considered offensive. Should I point it out to them that they're being offensive or just let it go because they are older? -- Mouth Hanging Open, Philadelphia
DEAR MOUTH HANGING OPEN: You need to address this incredibly prickly challenge on a case-by-case basis. Consider each of the offenders, and evaluate whether you believe the person has the capacity to hear and consider what you are saying. This is important because it is likely that some of your family members are not open to considering how our culture and values have evolved over time or even how terms have changed for what people call themselves.
The people you can most likely affect are those who have the ability to listen and talk with you about contemporary issues. You can introduce the conversation by saying that you believe that they want to be sensitive to other people's views, lifestyles and feelings. From that perspective, you want to bring it to their attention that they have been making statements that could easily be considered offensive. Proceed to give them examples of what you mean. Go one example at a time so that you can talk about it and come to a full understanding of what you find offensive.