Should the Phrase “Senior Citizen” Be Retired?

  • Blog Post by: Eric Schubert
  • 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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