Who are you calling senior? For older folks, some terms are fast becoming radioactive


As boomers age, many object to being labeled as “senior citizen” or “elderly” which convey the negative aspects of growing old. The AMA (American Medical Association) is following the lead of the American Geriatrics Society; both have adopted “older adults.” Others have shortened older adult to simply “olders” or “perennials” a sly nod to millennials. For the complete article, follow our link to the Boston Globe.

The name of Boston’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly has been officially changed to the Age Strong Commission.

By Robert Weisman | Boston Globe.

Jill Tapper knew she’d made a mistake at the annual meeting of condo owners in Salisbury when she referred to their 55-plus complex as an “aging community.” She may as well have invoked rocking chairs and shuffleboard.

“Some of the other members were furious,” recalled Tapper, a longtime social worker. She quickly backed off and tried again. “Now I just call it the Windgate community.”

Tapper had stumbled onto the third rail of life-stage nomenclature. Words once commonly used to describe older folks and their lives — “elderly,” “geriatric,” “in their golden years” — are now scorned by some as patronizing. Even durable terms like “aging” and “seniors,” still in widespread use and part of the names of countless organizations, are fast becoming radioactive.

“Words like ‘elderly’ and ‘senior,’ with their negative associations, need to be put away,” said Mike Festa, director of AARP Massachusetts, who said many of the traditional labels connote physical or cognitive decline. “We’re avoiding those descriptions that convey the negative aspects of growing old.”

The backlash — which some liken to previous quarrels over what to call women, people of color, or sexual minorities — is gaining momentum and causing many in government, business, and academia to rethink their language choices. But efforts to redress perceived slights can create confusion even as they assuage the sensitivities of those miffed by past labels.

After a half-century of being known as Boston’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly, the city agency changed its name in January to the Age Strong Commission — a shift heralded by Mayor Martin J. Walsh in his state of the city address.

The muscular new name was tested at focus groups across the city, and widely welcomed.

“We’ve known for a long time that ‘elderly’ is not a word that our baby boomer constituents can relate to,” said commissioner Emily Shea. Read More

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