Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What we should call older people, acronyms for their organizations, and their sounds

On January 2, 2018 I blogged about how I am a seasoned citizen, not a senior citizen. Then I discussed that post using the title What should we call older people? at LinkedIn on both the Official Toastmasters International Members Group and the Official Toastmasters International Group. More than a half-dozen comments came in from each group. Some were serious, others facetious or off-topic.

One comment was to call older people what they prefer. I looked around and found two places with almost the same answer. Back on July 8, 2014 there was an article by Ina Jaffe titled NPR survey reveals despised and acceptable terms for aging. She reported that only 43% liked ‘older adult,’ while about a third (33%) liked ‘senior,’ but only 12% liked ‘senior citizen.’ So, the majority didn’t like anything! There is a 2005 8th edition of the AARP Thesaurus of Aging Terminology,  which can be downloaded as a 272-page .pdf file. In their section on Relational Terms there are no entries under Coots, Elders, Geezers, Retirees, Sages, Seasoned Citizens or Senior Citizens. Under Elderly (on page 44) it says to USE Older Adults.

There also was a Dutch magazine article in 2006 by Bert Weijters and Maggie Geuens from Ghent University on Evaluation of age-related labels by senior citizens in Psychology & Marketing magazine whose abstract is here. An earlier full-text working paper version is here. They did a postal survey of 4800 Belgians, ages 40 to 80 but only received 684 responses. Participants were asked to rank five labels on a Likert scale where 1 was negative, 3 was neutral, and 5 was positive. As shown above in a bar chart, 50+ was 3.60, Senior was 3.51, Retired was 3.34, Third Age was 2.66, and Elderly was 2.61. 

Another commenter said he would avoid seasoned citizen, and then complained off-topic that the first ingredient in too many seasonings is salt. But my post had shown a bottle of red pepper flakes –with no salt whatever. Several commenters scolded me for using ANY label, and unrealistically said to only call a person by their name (since they each are unique as a snowflake).

A Canadian commenter said that anyone over 55 can be called a Senior, and further distinguished that 55 to 65 is a Young Senior, 65 to 85 is Senior, and 85+ is Elderly Senior. Page xxii of the AARP Thesaurus of Aging Terminology had very different set of age ranges: Middle Aged is 40 to 59, Young Old is 60 to 74, and Old Old is 75 to 100+. She also mentioned senior discounts.

One way to get lots of senior discounts is to join a group (once you have reached age 50). In the US there are AARP and AMAC, and in Canada there is CARP. AARP was founded in 1958 as the American Association of Retired Persons, and went to just using the acronym in 1999:

in recognition of the fact that many members continue to work full or part time.

AMAC started in 2007 and is the Association of Mature American Citizens. CARP says it is Canada’s largest advocacy association for older Canadians and, of course, formerly was the Canadian Association for Retired Persons.

Try pronouncing these acronyms, and things get funny. AARP sounds like the mealtime noise made by a hungry seal (arp or ahrp). CARP is a both a noun referring to a freshwater fish, and a verb meaning to complain about unimportant matters.   

And AMAC sounds like A Mac, which confusingly would refer to a family of Macintosh computers (iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini, Mac Pro) from Apple.

On page 126 of his novel, Lisey’s Story, Stephen King said:

“What’s the old saying? ‘Call me anything you want, just don’t call me late to dinner.’ “

Paul Cezanne’s painting of a man with crossed arms came from Wikimedia Commons.

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