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Who Wants to Be a Senior Citizen?

Funny, people want to be Senior Product Managers and Senior Developers, but who wants to be a Senior Citizen? Sarah E. Bourne
Often, the very same word or words, in differing contexts, have very different meaning. The word Senior when used in industry, medicine, research, or municipal agencies, means a higher-level job, higher income, or a more prestigious position. Even being, or becoming, a High School Senior is an admired level of life.

Yet that same word, senior, or the words senior care, when applied to people over 65 is all too often seen as derogatory.

Why? How did the word senior get to be seen as so negative for just this one group?

Some random thoughts on this issue:

Was the negativity because of some feelings the younger persons had about the use of “their” terminology to describe “old folks”?

Those using the word senior to describe their own achievements [Senior Associate, Senior Resident, Senior Analyst, etc.] may have felt that using the word for older persons denigrated it’s use for them?

Was Senior Citizen at one time also meant to imply higher status or was it always “negative”

Using the Internet, it seems the term Senior Citizen was first used in 1938 in the United States – but the word senior was used “way back when” in reference to the father of a son with the same name [i.e. Senior and Junior]

In 1938, the life expectancy of that Senior Citizen was approximately 75ish. The life expectancy of a person who is 65 now [2010] is approximately 80ish. Add to this that we now live more healthy older lives; it may be that in the early 1940’s the term was used to describe a person who was unhealthier or more frail than that 65-year-old is today.

And so the term may have become a negative one as it might have been describing in reality what we now see as stereotypical thinking about seniors. Back then these descriptions [frail, sick, bent over] may have been more accurate for the then senior citizen cohorts.

But – getting back to today: The term Senior citizen needs to be itself “retired” or there needs to be a move to bring this term into the positive realm of those other “senior” labels.

It’s probably easier to work at changing the connotation than it is at deleting the words – they have been part of our popular vocabulary for too long.

So – here’s to making it as prestigious to be Senior Citizens as it is to be Senior Product Managers or Senior Developers!