Open Thread

Open Thread Update: Identity Crisis

We’re still going through an identity crisis, negotiating different ways society refers to people over 60.  Our quick poll of more than 300 respondents didn’t have an overwhelming preference – 39 percent were OK with ‘Senior” (although on some mailing lists that could get you emails about college loans and yearbook pix!); some 24 percent liked the specificity of “Older Person.”  About 22 percent of respondents preferred the classic “Senior Citizen.”  Some 13 percent of repondents like the elegance of “Elder” and about 2 percent liked the sporty flair of “Oldster.”

That’s not all, though.  The topic sparked a lively debate in the comments and on our Facebook page.  Many people thought the point would be moot if they were called by their names and a few wondered why labels were needed at all.  Some out of the box ideas were “vintage” (I like that! “Vintage citizens”) or ‘Pops.’  One very practical reader said ‘You can call me ‘senior’ if it gets me discount!”    …and nobody, apparently, wants to be called ‘elderly.”

Here’s an interesting piece by an essayist too young to worry about it (read it here) about what to call an older person.

We’ll leave the survey up for a while so you can take our poll and let us know your thoughts and solutions in the comments…or on our Facebook page.

Are you an "older person?" A Senior Citizen? Take our poll!




Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send your suggestions for Open Threads to her at





29 responses to “Open Thread Update: Identity Crisis

  1. As a journalist who writes on health and lifestyle, I doggedly try to replace the word elderly with older when it comes up in research studies. It might be the Los Angeles effect/ no one here is old,lol- just a bit older.

  2. I rather enjoy being called “Mr. Wayne” by those who are younger. It is almost tradition here in the South to address a senior as “Mr. John” or “Ms. Jan” or Mr. Gene” or Mr. Roy” or Ms. Jean” or “Ms. Connie”
    There seems to be an aura of respect when people are addressed that way. And no one is offended if they are not quite there in age yet.

  3. Along this line, why do news articles always say “grandmother” following an older woman’s age (if, in fact, she has grandchildren). For example, “Jane Smith, a 58-year-old grandmother ….”

    I never read “Jane Smith, a 32-year-old mother” or “Jane Smith, a 44-year-old wife,” or “Jane Smith, a 22-year-old daughter.” It’s always just “Jane Smith, 38.” But if she has a grandchild, it’s “Jane Smith, a 38-year-old grandmother.”

    Why do they have to label someone a “grandmother”?

    1. Excellent question, Helen. That practice should stop. Furthermore, I don’t recall reading about a reference to ‘grandfather’, when speaking of older men. Why are women being classified this way? Thank you for raising this awareness.

  4. Don’t need labels, like the use of the name but that doesn’t always work. How do things like the “X” or “Y” Generation Get started? We were Baby Boomers for a while, now it seems the line has been crossed and we’re just old. We must be able to come up with another term.

  5. I like Ashton Applewhite’s, author This Chair Rocks, term of ‘olders’…

    Elder connotes wisdom and it is my belief and experience, that added years don’t necessarily equate with added wisdom.

    But this is a great time to be old in my opinion… Given all that is going on I often think “I’m glad I’m old and on my way out.”

    Be well and of good cheer….

  6. To those that matter I’m Dad, Grandpa and G-pa (short for Great-Grand-Pa ). What other classes or titles others put me in do not really matter. Most class me automatically as “Senior”; although I’m still proofed when buying beer so to that cashier I’m still a youngster….

    1. Thanks for the idea, Brian and others. There isn’t a mechanism that tracks, counts and makes percentages for every possible option. Next time we can certainly add an “Other” option in the list of possible answers and people can post their option in the comments.

  7. In the land of Oz (Australia) those of us who are retired from paid work and (were) wandering the globe are called gray nomads, I can relate to that. But on the whole labels seem derogatory, for any cohort in fact, and on that basis perhaps I need to refrain from referring to Milenials and Gen Xers. I guess none of us care to be pigeon holed.

  8. I’m not any of the labels you option!
    If anything I’m a Queenager. I’m a fashion designer, launching a new luxury brand shortly and have a political T-shirt line supporting not for profits around the world. I am engaged with the world, Did a Master degree in fashion and sustainability in my mid 50s, mentor young start up businesses to get funding for their fashion businesses from the UK government. I still go to the hip and happening events in my city and go clubbing ( pre covid obvs) I Also workout regularly doing yoga, tai chi and Pilates as well as meditating twice a day. Keep up people!!!

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