Thursday, April 01, 2010

Would the PA Dept of Aging Change its Name?

During an unscheduled late morning session held over coffee and donuts on Tuesday, April 1st, 2010, at a restaurant in Harrisburg, a representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, sitting among co-workers, was overheard discussing whether the Department should change its official name to the "Pennsylvania Office of Getting Older" ("OGO" or "Pogo").

When queried, the representative disclaimed any authority for seeking feedback or for involvement in a name change project, but he did comment.

"Some of my co-workers wonder if we should consider a change in our name. We're changing everything else lately. Personally, I'm tired of the negative connotations of some abbreviations used to reference the Department.

"Now, I gotta get back to the office . . . and don't print my name."
One source confirmed that concerns do exist within the Department that many people abbreviate the Department's current name into the acronym "DoA". That term carries a negative connotation in medical terminology.

"Our work is not about that condition at all," said that source. "That would be under the jurisdiction of the Department of State's Funeral Directors Licensing Board."

That same
source noted that many journalists refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Aging loosely as the "Aging Department." That name conflicts with the "enhancing" and "empowering" themes in its posted mission statement.

The ripple effects of such a name are uncertain, too, in a society that prizes youth. Remember what happened to the Oldsmobile.

Some workers, without explanation, have transferred to other departments having more positive, long-lasting names, like the "Welfare Department" or the "Health Department". But linking those departures to the Department's name remains purely speculative.

Also some confusion in mail deliveries may find their cause in the Department's current name. When the Department's name is called out in the central mail sorting room as "Aaa...Ging!", some deliveries are earmarked improperly to the Office of the Attorney General (A.G.).

That might not be as much of a problem if the name of the Department would be changed to the "Office of Getting Older".

"Everyone is 'getting older', right? That would be a politically correct name, and no joke" said one Department worker.

That worker confirmed, also, that more than one name had been floated initially. At least a few names were rejected due to their acronyms, specifically the "Office of Older People Services" ("OOPS"), the "Department of Inter-generational Experiences" ("DIE", which was viewed as similar to the current
acronym -- although a variation, the "Independent Department of Inter-generational Experiences" or "iDIE", was considered trendy), and also the "Agency on Senior Services".

As to the current suggestion for a name change, there is some concern about the new acronym ("POGO") as being too fanciful or flashy, and perhaps vulnerable to trademark disputes.

The idea of any name change may not be well-received by the Department's affiliated agencies at the county level, but for other reasons -- their changed acronyms.

Presently, each local entity is known as an "Area Agency on Aging" ("AAA"). Local workers have come to love the alliteration of the longer appellation.

Also, many county agency office workers have delighted in the anonymity of their offices' "AAA" name, which can reduce their workload. Since "AAA" is frequently confused with other organizations having identical acronyms, such as the "American Automobile Association", the "American Arbitration Association", and the "American Antropological Association", it is believed that many Pennsylvanians making an initial inquiry call those other offices instead, and then tire of their voice mail systems.

One employee in a county aging office expressed concern about losing its "AAA" rating -- something to be prized in today's beleaguered economy.

These benefits would disappear if the local agencies would be renamed the "Area Agencies on Getting Older" ("AAGO"). Who would confuse a local getting older agency with the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando or the American Academy of Gnathologic Orthopedics?

Such a changed name for the Department would also affect its leader, who would then be known as the "Secretary of Getting Older" ("So GO").

The Governor's Office apparently was unaware of any movement to change the name of the Department.

"If it comes to us, we'll have to study it carefully," said a liaison. "But a rose by any other name is still a rose, don't you think?"