No one likes the word 'old,' but what else do we call it?
The question of what age we considered "old" is a hard one, and so is knowing what to call older adults. From the word 'senior' to 'elderly,' the words to describe older people today don't seem to fit or take off with Boomers.
So if we're not old, then what can we call it? The words "older" and "senior" are the most common names given to old people, but most people don't like being called names about their age, especially when the name choices we use for older people are not very good.
Joe Pinsker, a staff writer at The Atlantic, questioned the best term to call older people, and he found that no word describes aging best. According to Pinsker:
- "Elderly" seems too frail or disabled
- "Geriatric" is precise but sounds clinical
- "Retiree" doesn't apply to a person who never worked or is working
- "Aging" is accurate but too vague
The current vocabulary for describing aging is not popular. We all know it's not nice to call someone 'old.' It can even be considered an insult to some. Now we find that the diverse life experiences of older people are so different that we can't even name it. Ina Jaffe, an NPR journalist, focused on aging, described the differences in the lives of older adults: "Some are working, some are retired, some are hitting the gym every day, others suffer from chronic disabilities. Some are traveling around the world, some are raising their grandchildren, and they represent as many as three different generations. There's no one term that can conjure up that variety." said Jaffe. So we see no term can adequately describe the unique experience of growing old since we can't even decide when old is old.
According to Pinsker's article, most American adults think 65 is old. Especially if they are younger adults. The who think 65 is old declined as the older respondents were. Only 16% of seniors surveyed who were older than sixty see themselves as "old." The majority of the people surveyed believe age 65 is "middle-aged," but if mid-life is halfway from death, then the math is off at 65 because middle life for most of us is 50.
The other excellent terms Pinsker mentions are "golden years" and "super adults." These phrases shine up a dusty picture of aging but do make getting older sound better. The truth is, there is no genuinely great phrase or word yet to describe getting old. It seems the way we age is changing too quickly for a new name to catch on.
Read Pinsker's article "What's the Best Term for Referring to Old People?" HERE: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/01/old-people-older-elderly-middle-age/605590/
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