"Senior" or "Seasoned"? Word Choice Makes Big Difference in Discussing Aging

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So when do we become “a senior”? That’s the question that I posed to a number of my friends. I wrote about their responses in last week's post, and wanted to share a few more insightful concepts.


    Many thought that the idea of who is old changes as we age. “I will admit that when I was in my 30s, I'd hear someone say ‘He/she was so young to die!’ And the deceased would be 48 to 55. I'd think, ‘Yes, but that is OLD!’ Remember that way of thinking?” Jan said. “In my 30s, the 50s were OLD. Now the 70s are still ‘too young to die of natural causes!’ I'm glad I made it this far!”

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    Another friend thought another descriptor would be better in describing our current stage. “At 63 my husband and I have been enjoying the use of ‘senior’ discounts,” Kathy said. “I don't necessarily think of myself as ‘senior’ but my age puts me in that category. I prefer that descriptor over ‘old fart.’ I think that today's senior are physically and mentally much younger than those of just 20 years ago. The term ‘seasoned’ actually fits better today. It expresses the breadth of knowledge that one acquires as one experiences life.”


    And another friend believes that she’s still evolving as a person. “I am still growing up and I have more courage than ever before to pray about my path and then walk it,” Kerry said. “Just working too hard physically, mentally, and emotionally to consider myself a senior. Also, my hair colorist, personal trainer, and wellness doctor are cheering me on! Lovin’ life!”


    And my thoughts? Well, I have noticed how much our culture values youth. Because “senior” is the direct opposite, it can feel like an insult to everyone who has lived to this stage of life.  In the past year, I saw a news article that reported on a 70-year-old man who had been let go of his position in a downsizing. One of the reader’s comments expressed thankfulness for the man’s termination so that a younger person could have that job. The reader didn’t take into account the man’s long-time loyalty to the organization, deep knowledge of the job, and skill level.  Instead, the reader was focused on “youth”. And just this morning, I saw a headline describing someone who is 50 as "over the hill". That’s why I currently am protesting the use of the word “senior”.


    However, I believe the pendulum of classifying people of a certain age as “senior” may be starting to swing, especially for women.  Just look at cultural icons such as Diane Sawyer, Betty White, Helen Mirren, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Curtis, and Jane Lynch. I think that their zest for life, creativity, and intelligence is starting to impact our culture and hopefully will open doors for all of us. So I choose to embrace Kathy’s idea of “seasoned” and will try to join my friends in maintaining a youthful take on life.  I invite you to join us too!

Published On: September 29, 2010