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Old Timer, Senior Citizen, Elderly Person: What’s in a Name?

Regardless of your age, there are plenty of names you might be called. Some of them are funny, some are hurtful, and some might be just right. The question for seniors and those who care for them is: what’s the right name for someone once they’ve reached the sixty-five-year-old threshold?

Old Timer, Senior Citizen, Elderly Person, or Something Else?

Getting this right, what to call someone on the older end of the age scale, might not be as easy as it sounds. Call someone who is fifty-five elderly, and chances are you’ll have one truly unhappy person on your hand. Call a seventy-year-old woman young lady, and you could come across as condescending.

One reason this topic is getting more difficult by the day is that people are living longer. They feel younger longer, and society, especially those over fifty, don’t see age the same way people did twenty or thirty years ago.

Back in the 1980’s when the “Golden Girls” TV show was first on the air, the three main characters seemed old. People thought it was funny that they were still working and dating. It might be surprising to hear, but Betty White’s character was only fifty-five years old when the show first aired.

In today’s world, suggest to a fifty-five-year-old woman she is over the hill or an elderly person, and you’ll get an ear full. For many of the senior set, the idea of being old is something that their parents may have been, but they never will be even once they hit and pass their twilight years.

Part of the problem for people in the senior age group is that being old has a negative perception. It brings with it images of senior people sitting around a nursing home who can no longer care for themselves and have no real quality of life any longer.

Names to Avoid and Some That are Okay

Some of the most common terms for the older set are some of the very ones they hate the most. Try to avoid calling seniors: senior citizens, the elderly, elderly folks, elderly seniors, or the dreaded elderly life stage. In fact, it might be best to just remove the word elderly from your vocabulary when it comes to describing people of any age.

So, what should you call older folks? Some of the most popular terms include older adults, older people, retirees, and seniors (but not senior citizens). For some, the term elders work as well and is seen as respectful. Keep in mind that it’s elders and not elderly. A couple of letters can make a world of difference.

In the end, being a senior citizen is hard enough, so if you’re wondering want to call the senior adults in your life, the best thing you can do is ask them what they prefer. They will appreciate that you respected them enough to get their input, and you’ll be more comfortable knowing you are respecting their wishes and not accidentally insulting them.