What should you call people who are past retirement age? When you consider there are millions of active retirees living longer than ever before, the word ‘elderly’ doesn’t seem to suit.
We found an NPR story that discusses the issue.
“Who wants to be called elderly? For you 20-something hot shots, this will be you too some day,” writes NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos (who is 63). “What I’ve found when reaching out to experts is a lot of disagreement over what term to use. ‘Elderly’ was decidedly taboo.”
Schumacher-Matos went looking for the advice of marketers, “because money rides on their social insights.” He asked Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, who suggested when referring to people 65 years and older, “For heavens’ sake, don’t call them anything.”
He then went to Paula Span, an associate professor at Columbia Journalism School who writes for The New Old Age blog at The New York Times. Span said she usually goes with the “inelegant but unobjectionable term ‘older adult.’”
Schumacher-Matos then asked Joanne Handy, the CEO of Leading Age California, a senior care advocacy group, who said, “People seem to prefer ‘older adults,’ ‘seniors’ or ‘elders.’”
“The problem is we all want to live longer but no one wants to be old,” writes Schumacher-Matos. “Most people don’t want to be called old, even when they indisputably are.”
Schumacher-Matos notes how one refers to older adults can also depend on one’s culture. “For example, in the Native American culture, the term ‘elders’ is a sign of respect.”
In the end, Schumacher-Matos decides, “there is, in other words, no one good answer… In writing this column, I tried not calling them anything. It worked, but I don’t know if I can keep it up. My audience may have a better answer. Let’s talk.”
Read the story here.