Imagine a world without “seniors.”
No more senior citizens, senior discounts, senior living and senior centers, senior advocates. Oh yeah, no more senior moments.
Older adults and older people: You’re welcome. Use of the adjective “older” conveniently qualifies individuals with more birthdays and more experience from younger individuals.
But for age-related intents and purposes, “seniors” must go. The label — and the associated perception. Unfortunately, “senior,” similar to “aging,” too often implies frail, vulnerable, infirmed, dependent … “silver tsunami” and other negative stereotypes.
But it’s just a word, some will say. What’s the fuss? It is convenient, after all, to label or differentiate individuals by race, gender, economic status. The media does it. Researchers do it. Policymakers do it.
The fact is labels do presuppose, even if unintentionally, what makes us different. And what segregates and divides — them from us, or us from them, depending on where you stand. In an ideal world, where tolerance and The Golden Rule prevail, everyone should be us.
WHAT ABOUT “US NOT THEM”?
Here’s some unsolicited public relations counsel for “aging” advocates such as AARP, the American Society on Aging and the myriad other organizations, associations, commissions, agencies, etc. As you advocate for more services and supports and funding for older people, you would be wise to take to heart your own message of inclusivity about aging: that it is about “us not them.”
Consider, as those who oppose your efforts inherently do, that lobbying on behalf of seniors labels them as a “special interest,” which — ironically and hypocritically — places them in competition with other groups who due to age, health or status do not relate to seniors.
Instead, how about everyone agree, regardless of where we stand presently, that it’s in our collective best interest socially and economically for everything possible be done to integrate those among us who’ve lived longer with those who desire to.
This includes making greater effort to unite generations within our communities, workforces, educational institutions and commerce; and as caregivers, mentors, volunteers, friends and family members.
Research shows that how we perceive and identify aging directly influences how well we age. It would be healthy for us to erase the lines and language that separate young and old.