Why isn’t the definitively positive word “longevity” universally used as a replacement for the generally negative “aging”? And why is “senior,” which research shows is not favored by boomers, still used to label older people?
The mostly likely reasons: inconvenience and habit.
It’s just plain more convenient to say someone is “aging” and to refer to an “aging population” rather than use phrases like “increasing longevity.”
Similarly, “senior” and “senior citizen” remain popular because “older adult” and “older person” seem to be awkward alternatives. There’s force of habit, of course, too. Rebranding is made that much more difficult with the entrenched usage of antiquated descriptors like “senior living” and “senior centers” and “senior specials.”
For the sake of future generations, here are several convenient and practical alternatives to the use of stereotypic, age-specific language.
OLDER ADULTS, OLDER PEOPLE, OLDER. For starters, there is no universally agreed upon age for what is officially “senior.” (It’s certainly not 50, as AARP would have us believe.) Also, “older” qualifies whereas “senior” labels and, as with race and gender, labels tend to be stereotypic and prejudicial. Try to avoid age as a defining characteristic; in most cases you’ll realize it is or at least should be irrelevant.
MIXED-AGE. Senior segregation needs to go away. In its place should be “mixed-age” community living and community centers. Ideally, this recommendation might encourage more intergenerational and multi-generational living spaces, workforces, educational institutions and friendships.
REPURPOSING. Ideally, leaving the workforce should lead to a positive lifestyle change, when you find new purpose for your experience and interests and extra time. Rather than retiring — defined as giving up, stopping or stepping down — commit to “repurposing” your resources to new opportunities.
LONGEVITY. Longevity is defined as long life and endurance. Compare these positive word associations to elderly and growing old, which define aging. So, here’s to living a longer, productive life — to your healthy, purposeful longevity. Plus, use of the word counters the damage done by the cosmetics industry’s “anti-aging” marketing.
AGE OF LONGEVITY. As the planet’s population grows older at an unprecedented rate, sooner than later we need to appreciate who and what we’ve become. It is the respectful, healthy and convenient thing to do in this historic “Age of Longevity.”