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We need a new name for us

Because I’m a journalist in addition being a speaker and consultant, I subscribe to news feeds, blogs and notifications related to my area of expertise: the stage of life between 50 and 110. And I am shocked by what I am reading.

Today I received several articles purporting to spot trends for seniors. These included lingerie for the incontinent, bladder monitoring devices, tableware for people with dementia, Parkinson’s pens and a book about the history of liquor advertisements.

I understand that as I’ve aged my drainage system has become less hydraulic and more gravity fed. And I have no doubt that each and every one of these products would be of great value to someone. Maybe even me some day. But what sets me off is that in the minds of these marketers, this demographic—my demographic–is associated with physical decline, limitations and Norman Rockwellian nostalgia.

My bladder is just fine, thank you. So’s my brain. I’m at my professional peak, fitter mentally and physically than I was in my 50s. So I’ve got to ask: Where are the products for those of us who still drive, shop, cook, travel, work, mentor and have ambitions to learn to line dance and surf, regardless of how old we are?

Part of the problem is that we don’t have a definitive word that properly describes us. I cringe at the word “senior.” It’s too broad. At 62, you qualify for Wednesday discounts at supermarkets and cheap film tickets, but why should you be lumped in the same category as a 92-year-old in a nursing home?

I’m struggling to come up with the right linguistic alternative. Retiree? No; retirement isn’t defined by age. Oldster? Yuck. Grandpa? Snotty. Young old? Silly. For now, we’re stuck with senior.

In addition to a better descriptor, we also need less oversimplistic marketing. I don’t think I can face another 30 years of adult diaper ads. Instead, give me ads for the Cornell Adult University Summer Program, encore.org’s Purpose Prize, and the Clark Art Institute’s latest exhibit. Those I’ll be very happy to click through.

10 responses to “We need a new name for us”

  1. Lydia says:

    George,
    I am one of those people you are talking about and I work at the Clark Art Institute. I throw my AARP newsletter in the trash when it comes because it is all DEPRESSING! I’d go with elder but that brings up an old wise man with a beard and is sexist. Mature is boring….I’ll keep thinking about this.

    • Lydia says:

      PS. We would love you to become a member of the Clark, no senior discount to worry about.

      • Thanks for keeping on thinking about this, Lydia. And I’ll google (vt) The Clark. My wonderful Social Media Genies, The Cavallaros, are East Arlington folks. George Schofield

        • Barbara Bechelli says:

          Hi George – We are a complicated lot, aren’t we? I agree with you that many references to ‘Senior’ are full of generalizations and assumptions (and insults). I am still a “boomer”, part of the Sandwich Generation, proud of being part of the “Greatest Generation” and on and on. I do not believe that any group, as we Seniors are categorized, will ever have as many labels (so to speak) attached to us trying to define who we are. We defy definition. It would take a Herculean effort to deny the word ‘Senior’. It is embedded in our culture and governmental paperwork. As you said, we’re stuck with it. I only know that as I live my life, staring down the gauntlet of turning 70 in 2016, I will continue to stay sharp, work hard, stay fit and do the very best I’m able.

          I spend a great deal of time with the “Millenial” generation. (Who comes up with these names?) No longer the Gen-X. They are sharp, they are very smart, but what they do not bring to the table are Life’s Experiences and Lessons. That is where empathy has been gutted. Being the smartest person in the room does not make one the best person in the room. Life’s Experiences and Lessons have shaped those of us who are categorized as Seniors.

          Priceless.

          Barbara

          • George Schofield says:

            Thanks, Barbara. As we age, we’re either going to confine ourselves to a diminishing population of people our own age. We’ll have to increasingly draw our network of friends from more than one age group. Being the oldest person in the room does not make one the best or wisest person in the room. Neither does an identity crafted more from age than from who we’ve become in spirit and practice. George

  2. David L. says:

    Hi George:
    I would propose the term “Menture” which is a combination of Mentor/Mature. If you look up the terms mentor and mature I believe you have the right combination we are looking for. Men and woman over fifty have life and work experience that is rich and meaningful and we can provide the mentoring so necessary for those younger both in terms of life and work as well as having a certain mature outlook that can only be acquired through time .

    As I said we need to create our own term and not use an existing word……so I welcome other innovative terms…Mentures!

    Kind Regards
    David L.

    • George Schofield says:

      Hi David. Love the creativity of this. I’m going to start using the word, dealing with the confusion of people embedded in the vocabulary they know, and see what happens. Thanks. George

  3. Anthony Mazzucca says:

    George, we are old when we stop learning. I let my second 62 year old broker go because he not only didn’t have computer skills but was untrainable and he was a very smart guy. You must start at a very early age with a pattern of learning that continues all your life. You also need to make sure you are in a circle of stimulating people. With that in mind, when do you want to have breakfast?

  4. Sharon Jones says:

    I was reading a mystery novel recently and stopped short at a description of an “elderly woman” in her 60’s. When I was younger it may not have seemed startling, but as a 60-something myself it was a shock. Going to a personal fitness trainer twice a week has left me in the best shape of my life (not counting my Women’s Army Corps days…)

    It does seem that society lumps us together when our situations are very different from age 50 or so until 100+.

    • George Schofield says:

      Thanks for the post, Sharon. I expect to be a member of one or more groups, myself, but not to the exclusion of retaining my individual, primary identity.

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