Help me out here. Is there a good word for older adults?
Older adults don’t call themselves seniors unless they are trying to get a cheap ticket to a movie. And I hesitate to call myself a senior because, when it comes to naming the stages of life, I don’t see any freshmen, sophomores or juniors. So it seems weird to have a stage all out there by itself called “senior”.
An online group of my friends known as The Sister Listers tackled the issue a while ago and we couldn’t come up with any name for older women besides crone, which we didn’t like because it makes us seem like witches cooking up a batch of lizard guts and mouse tails.
Look in Roget’s Thesaurus and you get hit with words that carry the old ageist stereotypes — withered, ill, doddering, feeble, withered, decreit, infirm and other negative words that I hope Mr. Roget didn’t really mean. (His thesaurus was published in 1852 when he was 73 and maybe seventy-somethings felt that way in the 19th century, unlike the 70-something who visited this morning to invite me to go kayaking. Different times, different realities. Thank god.)
There are other words, most of which don’t hack it: Golden-ager, senior citizen, elder, granny, gramps, old-timer, codger, old bag, or how about Yeats’ “a tattered coat upon a stick”? Phooey.
Which is why I finally settled on this diary being called The Geezer Diary. To me, geezer was the least obnoxious word and it does make people laugh out loud when I tell them what I’m writing. But, if I could find something else, I might use it.
What should others call us?
Some media fight ageism by not using any of the above terms, including the bland “senior”. They report by giving the gender—man or woman–and then giving the age with no other comment. (If you’re interested in this issue, go to http://tiny.cc/ygfdo.)
Still, I wish there were something better and maybe we have to invent it. My friend M. suggested “Vintage Venus”, which brought to mind all kinds of pleasant associations—myself promoted to Venus level for one—but I could not imagine asking for a Vintage Venus discount at the movies.
Anyhow, feel free to comment with your own suggestions below. I will read every one.
And who could refuse this Venus her discount?