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What Should We Call Older People?

By January 21, 2009

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I have a question for everyone out there - what should we call older people? There are a lot of words out there for older or elderly people, but I'm not sure which one I should use in my own writing. Should I use seniors? older people? elders? oldsters?

If you have any thoughts, please chime in using the comments link below. Thanks.
Comments
January 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm
(1) Tom says:

I use the word, “ripening”.

January 26, 2009 at 8:41 pm
(2) jeannine says:

Ripening?
Ewww.
That means the next stage of life is rotting. That’s really uplifting.
How about just “older”. Let the reader decide if they’re in that demographic.

January 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm
(3) Boo says:

Jan 26 09

I like the world Senior!

January 27, 2009 at 10:21 am
(4) Seahag says:

What’s wrong with “older?” Now, “old” I may have a problem with. To me, at least, “older” implies number of years, and “old” implies a mindset or attitude. I know lots of “older” people who are not “old.” I also know plenty of people who in their late 30s or early 40s or 50s who are most definitely OLD.

January 27, 2009 at 10:22 am
(5) Aunt Jan says:

I don’t like any of them. They imply that we are really old and retired and are not vital. It’s also a matter of perception. To someone who if 15, anyone over 30 is old. To someone 60 anyone who is under 40 is young. You do have a problem.

January 27, 2009 at 10:36 am
(6) John says:

In some of the world the term ELDER

still has respect and cache

maybe even implies some wisdom if not

experience…

January 27, 2009 at 10:37 am
(7) Hank Stoddard says:

Try Seniors and for older Senior/Seniors

January 27, 2009 at 10:40 am
(8) Suzanne says:

Elders is good.
Old Farts and Old Dogs aren’t bad!
From one who is all of the above…

January 27, 2009 at 10:40 am
(9) Lucy says:

Generally, senior would be my preference.

January 27, 2009 at 10:49 am
(10) Eleonore Doron says:

To my ears, ‘senior’ is sad, but ‘Elder’ has dignity and commands respect: I would Helen Bamber an ‘Elder’, for instance.

January 27, 2009 at 10:50 am
(11) Don says:

Experienced

January 27, 2009 at 10:57 am
(12) Dermuid O'Shea says:

How about “crumblies” that’s what my daughter calls us in an affectionate way.

January 27, 2009 at 11:03 am
(13) Average American Citizen says:

Nothing irks me more than to have a server or clerk address me in a very loud voice saying, “Hello there Young Fellow – what can I do for you?”

Invariably the user of such comments has a smug look on their face and appears to feel they are being cute. This is patronizing B.S that ought to be outlawed in a world of civility.

They are effectively calling attention to everyone within earshot that I am a senior citizen. I do not appreciate either the comment or all the glances it elicits from those around me.

There is no surer way for a server to get a small tip from me or for a clerk to motivate me to shop elsewhere.

Personally, I want to be treated as the average American citizen that I am, and to be addressed as others are.

January 27, 2009 at 11:27 am
(14) Gary says:

I like elder, but don’t much care as long as I get the discount.

January 27, 2009 at 11:59 am
(15) erica chapin says:

If there must be a name, I also like ‘elder’, but what do we use the term for? It seems that it would need to be used rarely as it’s place is to categorize people, and I would not like to be categorized unnecessarily – only for the discount (ha) and I have been asked if I qualify by a very nice person at a checkout counter, by her saying “There is a 10% discount for those who are over 63 – do you qualify?”

Thoughtful and no need to qualify the age as old, older, crumbling, or any other category! Thanks for asking.

January 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm
(16) sylvia resnick says:

I have been doing word battle with an organization that finds various types of living acommodations for sendiors and insists upon referring to it as ‘ELDER CARE”. Every time I see that term I want to scream. It is so demeaning as if those of us who are over 65 are frail and needy. Why not call us senior citizens or mature. Just don’t say “eldery”. It’s a real turnoff.

January 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm
(17) Maryanne says:

“Master” works for me. Smiles.

January 27, 2009 at 2:09 pm
(18) Dian says:

I’m 60. Why do you need to call me anything? I am me! And pleeeease, don’t call me elderly. Ok, I’m a baby-boomer. But mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, I’m the best I’ve ever been. I had a nasty fall when I was younger and that affected me physically, but I can run or trot along when I need. I don’t feel like a senior citizen. Call on me. Don’t give me names.

January 27, 2009 at 2:09 pm
(19) Ann says:

I think Ma’am or Sir shows respect. Then we are not classified as “older”

January 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm
(20) Paul says:

Last chancers

January 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm
(21) Frances134 says:

For some reason the word “elder” reminds me of the older men of a church, and I’ve heard that word used that way many times. For some reason it doesn’t sound like a word that fits a woman. I refer to myself and anyone over 65 as “we elderlies”. That won’t suit everyone but I like that. One older person can be called “an elderly” unless he or she objects. It almost sounds like a title. I’ve known people who were still young who were sticks in the mud so it’s a mistake to judge a person by their age. And for heaven’s sake DON’T call us “cute.” One front desk clerk of about 19 or less said to me, as I was leaving a doctor’s office, “Now you be a good girl.” What a stupid, rude comment. I’m a woman who has had a busy, interesting life and who still has good manners (almost a lost art today), but for 2 cents I would have crawled over that counter and poked her in the nose! (I just didn’t want to have to rent a walker for the next day or two.) No one of any age should be put down. I’ve got a few words of advice for those who enjoy poking fun at older people. I want you to do this for your education and growth. You must stand beside some older person for this exercise. Now, bend your head and look down and both sets of feet. Tell me, where are you standing? Give up? Okay, I’ll tell you. You are standing next to an elderly person who is only a few steps ahead of you on the very same path from Birth right into Eternity. Babies, toddlers, children, young adults, middle-agers, the elderly all walk the same path every day. Always have, always will. We’re all headed for the same EXIT–and it’s the only game in town. And if you’re very lucky you, too, will reach the place where the elderlies now call their territory (they don’t envy you, they were already in that play). If you poke fun at them you are literally poking fun at your future. It’s never a bad stroke of luck to grow old, it’s a privilege. So we lucky elderlies need to remember that the young who poke fun and laugh, well, the joke’s on them, isn’t it? (smile)

January 27, 2009 at 4:50 pm
(22) Gwen says:

If 60 and above (60-100) is considered older/elderly/senior then I guess (0-60) must be kids??? Where does middle age come in? (40-50). Did I hear a yipe? I liked someones suggestion as to experienced, but then experienced in what?

Maybe “retired”…and those that did it early can have all those specials allowed as being the “kid” in retiringee’s goup. But some “old folks” never retire. And then all 60′s or 70′s or 80′s etc aren’t the same. So I think you’re stuck with sticking to the numbers.

January 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm
(23) Tallulah says:

If you are a functioning human being, I don’t think you should be put in a category…That’s what is wrong with our society…We think we have to put everyone in a category…when we are all human beings trying to make the most of this life..Why can’t we all be referred to as a person who is…..

January 27, 2009 at 6:26 pm
(24) Viv says:

How about human beings? Boomers? WWII Generation?

January 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm
(25) Polina says:

I agree with Dian; don’t call us elderly and so on. We are what we are and many of us feel much younger than those who are really young. If you want to speak about old age just say ‘those who are older than…’

January 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm
(26) Polina says:

I agree with Dian. Why should you call us anything? We are what we are and many of us feel much younger than those who are really young. If you need to talk about old age use ‘those who are older than…’

January 27, 2009 at 7:04 pm
(27) Daneen L Gore says:

I like mature.

January 27, 2009 at 9:18 pm
(28) Trisha says:

As my grandmother would say,

I don’t care what you call me. Just don’t forget to call me for dinner.

January 28, 2009 at 1:20 am
(29) san san ohn says:

In my country older peoples are called depend on their age.If the age is same as their mother they called (a may gyi).This means the elder mum and they called like this I felt noticed that I am too older for this young peoples.
The young peoples always pay respect for the elder is the cute habits.
I really accept be older people because we already known older peoples have many experiences in their life and most valueable things they got.When i riding the bus or go out somewhere places all the young peoples pay respect and give the fist things before they haven`t eat.

January 28, 2009 at 8:09 am
(30) Elaine says:

Why do we need to classify by age, color or otherwise. We are individuals and classification should be generic….Madam…Mr.or Mrs….

January 28, 2009 at 9:30 am
(31) Gary says:

I agree with Elaine Mr. Mrs. and Sir or Mam work fine for me. It is also a matter of the individual who is addressing the person with a greater age to do so respectifully with whatever name they feel is appropriate. An occasional “Old Dude” can work well. Also remember that the young people who are rude were taught by somewhat older people or as the case may be, not taught correctly. As a final comment please remember when they are being rude they are fair game for what ever you feel like saying to them. It is amazing what you can get away with in a public place.

January 28, 2009 at 10:11 am
(32) Debbie says:

I think the word “mature” is good as it does
not single out that someone is necessarily “old” Many titles currently used to identify an older adult are very bias and it is easy to see why older adults take offense

January 29, 2009 at 5:37 am
(33) Pepito Degamo says:

Whatever name you call me doesn’t matter. It’s how you put meaning to words that matters. To be old could mean an elevated title and therefore commands respect, or it could mean rotten and useless and therefore contempt.

It should be up to the “oldie” to prove his worth. Respect is earned and not given. Jeanne Calment was extremely old but was respected and loved by the whole world. When we called Calment old, we meant it with much respect. So in this case the world “old” becomes a good thing to hear.

January 31, 2009 at 2:53 am
(34) Pepito Degamo says:

In the Western and much of the world, the word “old” connotes decay and ugliness. This is the principal reason why many older people don’t want to be called as such. Any tag as “elder”, “mature”, or “senior citizen” would mean the same as old so long as the elderly people will not work to change the mental impression for so long implanted in minds of the younger generation.

But the change could only happen if the oldie himself work out to improve himself and make himself still usable and of service to humanity. Take the cases of Clarence Bass or Bob Delmontique; they are in their 70′s and 80′s, respectively, but still with vigor and body of a 30-year old, and active on teaching people on how to have perfect bodies; how to live healthy and long lives.

Of course, they are old and everybody will call them as such, but we all look at them with awe and admiration.

March 4, 2010 at 6:44 pm
(35) elle says:

Let’s just call them adults. If a modifier is required, why not use an age range? Adults between 60 and 100 or 60 and over. I don’t think grown up people who are no longer young need a specific name.

While we’re at it, let’s get rid of that “middle aged” term as well. What is that? Sounds like “one foot in the grave” and “ha-ha your life is almost over.”

January 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm
(36) Loser says:

prunes

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