Life & Culture

Open Thread Update: Don’t Call Me a “Senior Citizen”

Well, it seems that almost everyone dislikes “senior citizen,” except, as respondent Michael notes, when it’s followed by the word ‘discount.”

Touche.

The question “what do you want to be called” triggered an interesting array of responses, from the concise – “Generation G for GoldenAger” suggests Shirley, to this creative response from Sara C: “Teenior.”

“I am 66, I feel as though I am in the teenage years of my senior citizen status. So I am a Teenior.”

-Sara C.

“Elder” was the standout moniker, cited by nine people for its suggestions of respect and wisdom. Consuelo D. liked its ‘wisdomly sound.’  Two people actually said they stand up straighter when referred to as an “elder.”

“I like the word “elder.” It implies respect *because* the person is older, and a recognition that having many years of experience might be useful and valuable.”

Rhee H.

A few people liked the term “sage,” while admitting, like Maggie, that it sounds a bit ‘too smug.”

An elder controversy

Interestingly enough, the term ‘elder’ was rejected by several commenters, because it implies wisdom – wisdom that not all older people possess. “Elder connotes wise one — and we’re not all wise” notes Blair, who prefers “Olders.”  David B., who likes “senior,’ says “Elder, unfortunately, implies wisdom and respect that not every senior deserves.”

Disappearing Act

Several people noted the discomfort society has with getting older, as reflected in the language, often quite poignantly.   Virginia writes “I don’t care what you call me, just call me! More than being offended by being lumped into a category where I may or may not feel that I fit, I am much more upset when I suddenly become invisible to the rest of the world.”

Elise K. makes this subtle point: “Whatever we call ourselves, I have issues with the number at which society deems us the older generation. 60 is very different from many of us living into our 90’s yet we are all lumped into this very diverse group spanning some 30+ years covering more than a generation.”

Toss these in the Dumpster

Everyone agrees the term ‘elderly” should be retired…and the women in the group noted that terms like ‘young lady” seem particularly stupid. (“Young lady?” Oy!!!’ says Maggie.)

“Older adult says it all. It sure beats being addressed as “young lady” (which I surely am not when I go into a local delicatessen).

Ellen P. R. 

Personally I’d like the term “young at heart” nuked from outer space.

We’ll keep this open for a while so you can add your ideas, second thoughts, or even third thoughts.  Keep sending your thoughts in the comments and we’ll revisit this topic again!

 

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 editor@seniorplanet.org.

 

 

COMMENTS

86 responses to “Open Thread Update: Don’t Call Me a “Senior Citizen”

  1. Never “young lady”—it is insulting. Does anyone think that makes me feel good? We are simply human beings, embracing our one, precious life and lucky us who get to get wrinkly, grey, slower and maybe a little forgetful. Gratitude for each glorious day of these past 74 years.

  2. I prefer Ma’am if someone is addressing me. It’s respectful and accurate. I’m tired of all these new names for people. If they are referring to me (to someone else) they can say “the older woman” since that’s what I am. Stop looking for kitschy words. It’s annoying!

    1. Actually being called a “senior” works for me. Not senior citizen, just senior. Where does the citizen come from? We say young, middle aged, without adding “citizen” so Senior is
      fine with me.
      Young at heart or “76 years young” – ugh. That’s how you know the person thinks you’re really “old” in a bad way. Lipstick on a pig.

  3. After reading your follow up, I now like Young- At-Heart, or YahYah – for short! At our age, we should reflect fun, joy, appreciation and enthusiasm for the rest of our lives! We deserve it!

  4. I hate it when I am called sweetie. It seems to be a term some people using when speaking to seniors. It’s disrespectful and condescending. I don’t have a problem with senior but dislike elderly.

    1. I, too, like “Elder”, although there may need to do some attitude-upgrading*. But at least it is unambiguous and unlike to b be confused with top-level students. Anything is better than “Young Fella”.
      *For instance, when the gatekeeper at Costco said he was only admitting people who were “60 and Older”, I told him that was “60 and Better”.

    2. Why do we need a label at all? This society is so obsessed with labels it’s divides us . I’m a boomer snd a senior and an elder. Call me whatever just not late for dinner
      I like the term “ bloomer” cause we keep blooming!

      1. Labels are helpful, as in “many elders in the group stood firmly for the council’s decision.” I think we’re obsessed with the divisions because there’s such confusion about roles and identity; the labels are just a way of figuring out these things.

  5. I am 76, but I don’t like any of the terms that may be applied to me, including elderly, elder, aged, old, mature, senior, venerable, and more. It does not matter if they are being used in a venerating, critical, or neutral manner. They do not matter. I am what I am, and that is a complex being with varying levels of cognitive, physical, and psycho-social functioning, all varying with age. Just call me John.
    Also I do not expect respect just because I am numerically older.

  6. Category thinking is so un-cool. Putting people in labelled boxes contradicts their humanity. Category thinking is promoted by adverting consumer-oriented society that looks for profit by selling you their stuff.

  7. Why object to “senior citizen?” It’s a good term. I’m old enough to remember that before they started calling older adults “senior citizen” they were called something else which I don’t remember (I think it was before I became a senior citizen), but “senior citizen” was the new and better expression, and I still agree to that. A “senior” in high school or college is a respectable term and so is the word “senior” when referred to as a senior adult. “Senior citizen” is better than “older adult” (I don’t want to hear the “old” as in “older”), and I hate when I hear the word “elderly” applied to anyone over 70. I probably won’t mind being called elderly when I reach 100 years old, but instead will feel proud to have reached that age.

    1. I don’t care much, although “elderly” sounds good. What I hate is being addressed as “honey” or “sweetie” by a store clerk. They wouldn’t have dared calling me that when I was under 60.

    1. Years ago I said “Don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner!” to many. Larry is so on target.
      As for the “young lady” line, I have fun with it in a certain context. My family has lived in this neighborhood since the depression. My local deli is going on to generation three, with many longtime extended family and staff. The guys at the counter are often seniors themselves and everyone has known each other for years. YL generates a lot of witty quips and laughter!

  8. Whatever we’re called, if it isn’t coupled with respect, caring and love, then at best it’s useless, at worst it’s harmful.

    At the Hubert Humphrey Building dedication, Nov. 1, 1977, in Washington, D.C., former vice president Humphrey spoke about the treatment of certain members of society as a reflection of a government: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    I opt for “elder” and “wisdom keeper” and that we be accorded a respected role in society.

  9. I like older adult or older person. Other terms like senior or elder reinforce the widespread notion that when you get older you’re not just a person anymore but morph into something called “old.” And we all know we’re the same person we always were no matter how old we get .

  10. Not elderly for 60+ population. I like older adults and “seasoned” adults although many in my circle don’t like seasoned. Said it makes them think of “spring chicken” but at least we laugh at that. I do think we need a change from “senior” and “citizen”. Maybe even aging adults.

  11. I have reached the age where I could care less what people call me – except grandpa when I am with the grand kids. To hell with categories, descriptions and the like. I will let other people worry about such issues.

  12. Elder, no way! Elder than what? Elder than whom? Citizen does not infer country citizenship in any way, shape or form. We are citizens who have reached a certain level of life and now reside there comfortably .When will people accept that fact that they are older, Golden, elder, Senior? It is not the nomenclature that counts, but how you accept and conduct yourself as such within that category, no matter how and what the terminology.

  13. I have no problem with “Senior Citizen.” I consider it a badge of honor – just as I do my gray hair, age spots and wrinkles. “Citizen,” for me, means “citizen of the world.”

  14. The term “senior citizen “ drives me nuts. It’s patronizing! I don’t like “senior” either. If I’m a “senior”, is a 30 year old a “junior”? “Elderly” is also awful: brings up visions of someone who is by definition always physically and mentally impaired. “Older adult” or a descriptive term like “an older woman/man” is perhaps even better.

  15. Elder or silver sounds good.
    I too was confused with Senior, one of the donut shops was offering a dozen doughnuts to Seniors, I got very excited. Lol, good thing I read the whole article before heading out for my doughnuts.

  16. Elder!
    The difference between elderly & elder is immense. Disdain the former, love for the latter.
    Elder not only implies wisdom as someone else said, but it imples a certain amount of mentorship as well. Whatever wisdom we’ve gained, must be shared.

    1. Is this my dear fellow thespian – Anne Culver? I personally don’t like “Elder” as it connotes wisdom, which in many cases (my own included) is inappropriate.
      Some years ago while volunteering with the Montgomery County Rec. Dept. this naming issue came up and I believe the County has adopted the the term Rec. Center in lieu of Senior Center – at least for any new facilities.
      The French use the phrase “le troisieme age” – the third age. Everything sounds better in French!

      Best,

      Mike

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