So what do you call older people?

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NPR reporter on aging, Ina Jaffe, recently discussed a poll that asked – what to call the people that she covers in her articles. In summary, there was more enthusiasm for terms that were despised than enthusiasm for any term that people really liked.

The experience of aging has certainly changed, but our vocabulary to reflect that change has fallen short. Life expectancy is increasing along with the quality of life, and retirement is getting pushed to the horizon as “…nearly three quarters of baby boomers plan to continue working during their so-called retirement years.”

Perhaps we should ask the opinion of J.K Rowling, author of the popular Harry Potter series, who might modify her description of Lord Voldemort and offer us the term ” The-Experience-That-Can’t-Be-Named.” The vocabulary may not be available to describe the experience of later life but the opportunities to personalize and redefine it are available and growing. Let’s not stop the transformation and wait.  Keep transforming.


Older Adult – Acceptable with no enthusiasm

Elder – Most respectful

Senior – Fine

Geezer, old-timer, elderly – Obviously despised



Senior citizen – Forget that!

Positive Aging/Successful Aging – Thumbs down

Retirement – On its way out