Eric Schubert

Eric Schubert is a vice president at Ecumen, an innovative nonprofit senior housing and services company based in Shoreview. He oversees communications, branding, public affairs and the Ecumen "Changing Aging" blog ( He writes about aging and change resulting from it in innovation, how we live, wellness, public policy and beyond.

Should the Phrase “Senior Citizen” Be Retired?

Posted by: Eric Schubert under Society Updated: August 11, 2011 - 3:30 PM




Katy Read had an interesting story recently in the Star Tribune asking about what language we should use to refer to older people.  One thought that comes to mind is “people.” 

She writes:

"Mature" could conceivably apply to a well-behaved teenager. "Retiree" refers to a job status, not a life stage. "Old-timer" evokes a long white beard and overalls outside the general store. "Elder" sounds, to some ears, a bit artificially tribal. But tack on a "ly" and it's far worse -- in many people's minds, "elderly" might as well be a synonym for "frail."

So what the heck should we call people who are, um, you know ... old?

It's an interesting question.

A few years ago Ecumen commissioned a statewide survey of baby boomers on a variety of topics related to their future and aging.  One question tested a couple of phrases, asking which they found most appealing: senior, elder, older adult and third ager.  We didn't include "senior citizen" because it just seems dated. 

-          48% favored “senior”

-          40% favored “older adult”

-          9 % favored “elder”

-          2% favored “third ager”

-          1% said “none”

Does senior work for you, or do you have other ideas?



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