‘Seniors’ have long experienced a problem with the terminology surrounding older people. All of the existing words are either insufficiently descriptive, lacking in inclusivity or imbued with pejorative connotations. Every conversation about seniors soon turns to who we are talking about and what responses are appropriate to various segments of the senior population.
Seniors are defined in many ways according to the context – those over about 50 or so in the workplace, those above 55 for superannuation purposes, 60 for eligibility for a Seniors Card, around 65-70 for pension purposes and so on. References to Third Aged people generally ignore the existence of their Fourth Aged compatriots. Terms such as older people, the aged, mature aged, the elderly, the aged and infirm, even grandparents, all carry a strong connotation of conservative or decrepit old folks in their Fourth Age, dependent on the community, waiting for a bed ion a nursing home, or worse. Even the term ‘ageing’ is misleading because we all start ageing at birth. The great majority of ‘older people’ are vigorous, vital and active, cogent contributors to all facets of modern society, many still working in key positions or filling demanding voluntary roles, growing our economy and supporting our institutions (and our younger people): certainly not deserving of the derogatory implications in most of our ‘ageing’ nomenclature. There are problems with every descriptive term we now use: older people? A 5-year-old is older than a 4-year old. Mature people are rarely ‘ripe’ and many would not like to be referred to as staid. Baby Boomers? What name for those born on 31 December 1945 or 1 January 1965? The Third Age and Fourth Age are not defined and are transitionary at best.