Wick Communications

What to call us geezers

In Writing on July 18, 2014 at 8:16 am

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Hey, how do you like getting older? I know I am enjoying my creaking knees and poor memory. And don’t we look great with our new crow’s feet and wrinkly everything?

What was I saying?

Oh, right. Aging isn’t always so great. Perhaps that is why so many of us wince when we’re called “senior citizens” or “elderly.” Last week, NPR ran the results of a small unscientific poll of its listeners to see how older people wish to be referred. Turns out we really don’t like being referred to that way at all. But “older people” and “senior” (without “citizen,” thank you very much) seemed to be the least objectionable.

For it’s part, the AP Stylebook says to use “elderly” and “senior citizen” sparingly. “Do not refer to a person as elderly unless it is clearly relevant to the story. It is appropriate in generic phrases that do not refer to specific individuals (such as “concern for the elderly.”)

On balance, I think I like “senior,” which to me refers to someone 65 and above. It seems to me “older people” is a relative term. I was taught that “elderly” referred to someone 80 and above, but that doesn’t seem to be the norm. …

I mention all this because the way we refer to people is important. We are getting older as a society and being 60 or 70 or even 100 doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing it did a generation ago. Just look at how our retirement communities differ from those of the past. The elderly are a lot more spry than they once were, and they must might smack you for calling them names.

What terms do you use? How do you define a “senior?”

Clay

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