Should We Stop Using the Phrase “Senior Citizen?”

woman smiling standing on yellow bell flower plant
Senior Citizen? How about AWESOME Citizen?

By Blog Coordinator Meghan Randolph

At SAIL, we’re always looking for just the right words to describe the population we serve. We know that words matter.  As we’ve seen in the fight against ageism, there are stigmas against what it means to get older. Considering the terms and words we use makes a difference.

This interesting article from the AARP suggests that we should stop using the words “senior citizen” altogether. But, it asks, what should we say instead?

It turns out the language surrounding older adults (our preferred term at SAIL) has even reached formal publications. To quote from the article:

Gen Xers and boomers have been so vocal in their revolt against ageist terms that the AMA Manual of Style has corrected the preferred word usage when referring to older people. The manual states that while “elderly” can still be used to describe an issue specific to that population of people, “Terms such as older persons, older people, elderly patients, geriatric patients, older adults, older patients, aging adults, persons 65 years and older, or the older population are preferred.”

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has changed its lingo, too. In an editorial post in June 2017, the editors stated, “As a result, despite years of progress in our own understanding of aging, public perceptions are still mired in a ‘swamp’ that treats aging as undesirable. The public associates aging almost exclusively with decline and deterioration.”

Do you think “senior citizens” should be scrapped from our vocabulary? It takes a long time to phase out a term, but is it time? What should we say instead? You can comment on this post below to let us know what you think! You can also send an e-mail to us to share your thoughts. In a later blog post, we’ll go over your opinions!

In the meantime, read the full AARP article here. You can also subscribe to their e-newsletter, “Disrupt Aging”, here. 

We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Got an idea for the blog? E-mail meghan.k.randolph@gmail.com or call the SAIL office at 608-230-4321 to share your idea! 

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