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June 06, 2014

The Debate Continues: What Do We Call Older Adults?

We’ve made our feelings about the term senior citizen quite clear in the past, but the challenge remains: What do we call older adults? 

Perhaps the easiest way to come to a conclusion is to look at all the options and explore why certain terms don’t suit the baby boomer generation. Part of the problem might be defining the group that the terms seek to classify. The AARP might send out membership cards to everyone over the age of 50, but “older adults” could include anyone from 50 to 100+. Understanding the nature of the conflict might help shine some light on why the majority of these terms seem ill fitting and outdated. 

When looking at terms like “senior citizen” and “golden years,” (and considering others like them), a common issue seems to be that they try to pigeonhole older adults into a certain category—one that often implies they are not self-reliant or active. The baby boomer generation has proven time and time again that they are far from sedentary. Instead, they’re independent, involved, and highly interested in living life to the fullest. With the large majority of older adults leading longer, healthier lives, the same terms that described their parents just don’t apply anymore. 

Which brings us back to our initial question: What do we call this group? Well, you’ve probably noticed by now that we’ve been referring to them as “older adults” or “baby boomers,” both of which seem to be less controversial. The AARP discovered in its research that many preferred the term “grown-up” or to simply not be categorized at all. 

In the end, your best bet might be just that: avoid categorizing. Baby boomers are a diverse and dynamic generation, so it’s no wonder the terms of generations’ past no longer apply to their lifestyles. You’re better off defining them by what they do, what they’re interested in, and what they enjoy. 

What term for older adults do you find off base? Are there any terms you prefer? Let us know in the comments!

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