What Do Seniors Want to Be Called?

May 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

When I became a Senior Pastor, I thought I had arrived.  It sounded as if I had been given a credibility that was lacking before the application and addition of that word.  It seemed to have an echo of authority, wisdom.  It denoted being in charge.  It seemed to ring with a tone of respect. 

What I would come to find out, as many in supervisory roles do, is that the problems no one else wanted, the decisions that had to be made came to me.  That didn’t always indicate I knew the answers, but that my desk was the one big enough to assume the weight of the tough stuff.  It also meant that there were issues and circumstances behind every door that only I had the key to unlock.  And, it meant that, when it came to matters of dealing with employees, guess who got the assignment?  

Maybe being senior is what earns all of these grave and sometimes unwanted tasks and responsibilities.  Maybe having arrived at the last outpost, i.e. the one just before retirement, readies you to enter into that world where, just because of your age, you are assigned problem solving matters no one else can do or really wants to. 

So what do we call people who have attained their senior years, asked someone in a search the other day?  How does one, having reached a certain age, become labeled so that the label fits and sticks? In other words, what do you want to be called?

Elderly is clearly out.  No one likes the ring of that.  No one particularly wants to be seen as incapable, limited, over the hill.  However, that word, for a long time, was the applied designation.   Let’s do our best to remove it from the annals of history and use by anyone at all.

Older adults has a little less abrasiveness about it.  It is also indefinite.  If I am 30 and you are 20, I am an older adult.  If I have achieved a certain status in some organizations, I am thrown with people about my age.  It has nothing to do with my age.  It only recognizes that I am no longer a younger adult. 

Old person.  That is just impolite, inconsiderate, insensitive and unnecessary.  Cast it out along with elderly.

Distinguished colleague.  Usually this refers to someone who has been around long enough to have achieved a notable reputation.  Often used in introductions, it is not a well used phrase, because it is questionable as to why it applies.

Codger or Old Codger.  Never to be used under any circumstances and certainly not in the hearing range of most persons who are past a certain age (usually undefined).  Even if you think persons to whom this might apply can’t hear, do not use it.

Pensioner. Outdated and thus not appropriate.

Octogenerian.  Now, that is clearly not suitable.  It pries into private matters of a more specific kind.  It is none of your business.

Retiree.  Since some persons retire in their 30’s, this seems a rather general term.  Lacking in specificity, it may raise more questions than it offers information.

Veteran. Since this most often seems to apply to those who have served in the military, its more generic use is likely not a helpful term.

Getting on. Oh, come on!

Now, if you can come up with a phrase that seems to identify adequately those who have matured, hey there’s one, then please submit your idea(s), that is if you aren’t senile enough to have already forgotten what it was as you became absorbed by this column.

Now, what was the question?

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