At her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog on December 31, 2017 there was another silly article by Jane Genova titled The Language of Aging – struggling how we/others should refer to ourselves. She claimed no one wants to be classified as old but:
“Yet there are no alternatives which aren’t loaded down with rhetorical problems.”
Jane based that silly statement on an article from December 29, 2017 in the Washington Post by Laura L. Carstensen titled In search of a word that won’t offend ‘old’ people. Laura said:
“Alternative terms range from distant but respectful to outright patronizing. None of them are appealing to old people. The most widely used are ‘senior citizens,’ ‘retirees,’ ‘the elderly’ and ‘elders.’ Then there are the derogatory terms, such as ‘geezers’ and ‘coots,’ mostly whispered behind closed doors. And there are terms such as ‘sages,’ which frankly go too far in the opposite direction, as plenty of old people are a far cry from wise.”
Clearly neither Laura nor Jane had looked very far or very deeply. And Jane even suggested there should be a contest to come up with a new term! There are other more derogatory terms like the gassy "old farts" and the even worse Yiddish solids "alte kokkers."
But we don’t need a new term, since “seasoned citizen” is reasonable and has been out there being used for a considerable time. For example, on July 30, 2017 in The Inquirer (Philly.com) Stacy Burling had an article titled ‘Seasoned?’ ‘Lucky?’ Readers join in the debate over what to call older people.
How long has that phrase been around? A decade ago on July 12, 2007 Rush Limbaugh used it in a column titled Seasoned Citizen gets advice on writing book. And it appeared in an article by William Ecenbarger on December 22, 2004 in the Christian Science Monitor titled 'Senior citizen' is a euphemism that just doesn't fit. Back in 1984 Mary Lewis Coakley used it as the subtitle for her book, How to Live Life to the Fullest: A handbook for seasoned citizens. And further back in the May 1979 issue of The Rotarian a letter to the editor on page 50 by Wilferd A. Peterson said:
“The other day a friend who is also against the ‘senior citizen’ label called on us. She said she had either invented or run across a title she liked much better. I don’t know who originated it, but I like it. Her contribution was ‘seasoned citizen.’ That suggests a superior person, someone who has been through all the seasons of living, spring, summer, fall, and winter. ‘Senior’ means that someone has attained the honor or a title simply because of his age; it fails to suggest on-going, vital ability as ‘seasoned citizen’ does.”
Another recent article by Adrienne Kavelle on March 29, 2017 in the Somers, NY News (TAP into Somers) titled The ‘Seasoned Citizen’ explained it this way:
A Seasoned Citizen is someone who has lived through events younger people will never know. Someone who has weathered loss and change and should be revered, and not just relegated to the back seat of the car or a 10 percent discount. A Seasoned Citizen has borne the trials of living and has emerged a winner!”
The image shows a bottle of red pepper flakes.
Near the end of her article Laura L. Carstensen mentioned another better term from gardening:
Upon first hearing this term, I was startled. The symbolism it connotes is perfect. For one, ‘perennials’ makes clear that we’re still here, blossoming again and again. It also suggests a new model of life in which people engage and take breaks, making new starts repeatedly. Perennials aren’t guaranteed to blossom year after year, but given proper conditions, good soil and nutrients, they can go on for decades. It’s aspirational.”
Stacy Burling’s article also pointed out that we could get more specific:
“Here’s what Bonnie Dalzell, who turned 80 this year, suggested: ‘Refer to those in their 70s as septuagenarians, those in their 80s, octogenarians, those in their 90s, nonagenarians, those who reach 100 or more, centenarians. Those in their 60s will love their ‘label’ – sexagenarians!’ True that, but, selfishly, I don’t want to have to spell septuagenarian more than once a year.”
The table shown above lists all the names for The Genarians by decades from a February 2, 2011 article at The Writer’s Workshop.
For more, see the January 10th blog post titled What we should call older people, acronyms for their organizations, and their sounds.