Blog Post No. 1000
Getting From Post No. 1 to Post No. 1000

Let’s Call Them Elder Community Centers

According to the Boston Globe last week, baby boomers are horrified that new senior centers in the towns of Franklin and Northborough might be named “senior” centers. In fact, the town of Medfield is calling its new facility “Adult Community Center” which sounds like it might be engaging in some x-rated activities.

“Bob Pitman , chairman of the National Institute of Senior Centers, said baby boomers surveyed by his organization overwhelmingly rejected the word ‘senior,’ feeling it has a negative connotation. While only 7 percent of people age 75 and older had problem with the word, 90 percent of respondents in their 50s didn't like it.”

I don’t like “senior” any more than boomers do because with long-term overuse it has a dusty, boring feel to it and when appended to anything else – community center, discount, etc. – produces yawns. And I strenuously object to how frequently the media use “boomer” to refer to all old people as though those of us born before 1946 don’t count.

We’ve had this discussion here at TGB and even took a vote on what word or words we like best for those of us who are getting old. Although some readers dislike it (M Sinclair, are you listening?), “elder” is my chosen word for us. Long neglected except in reference to tribal old people, it is ripe for resurrection. It connotes age, is respectful and works for boomers as well as the rest of us old folks.

But Mr. Pitman prefers the word “boomer”:

"We boomers like the term 'boomers,'" said Pitman, who is 57. "Even though we're in our 50s and 60s, it has a very useful feel."

Which leaves one to wonder if Mr. Pitman would allow anyone born before 1946 to join. Wouldn’t it be an excellent idea if instead of senior center or boomer center, such facilities were named “elder centers” to include everyone.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judy Carrino gives us a taste of her Summer Memories just in time for the change of seasons next week.]

Comments

I think the term boomer to apply to a bunch of adults getting older is pretty ridiculous, myself, but to each his own. I always think of a family member's Shar Pei when I hear "Boomer," as that was his name. He was grouchy, grumbly, unfriendly, and I never saw so many big wrinkles on one creature in my life. I thought maybe he was named after some Marine officer whose last name was Boomer that I read about in the newspaper, but was told not so.

As for "senior," I've repeatedly stated my dislike for that one too. Given the manner in which you define, elder, Ronni, I have had little difficulty embracing that concept. How do we get the dictionary definitions up to date? I guess repeated usage by many is the way to bring about change.

I did recently encounter a pretty vocal defensive attitude from a 50+ who rebelled at the idea that she was getting older, much less that she could possibly be considered an elder. Efforts to explain what elder truly meant seem to fall on deaf ears since her aversion was so deeply felt.

I couldn't help wondering if the aversion was not so much to the word "elder" itself, but was really a manifestation of her effort to reject the fact she was actually getting older.

One of the things that drives me crazy though is how, at the entrance of museums for example, you have the price for
children
adults
seniors
I don't like the term 'senior' at all, and would rather have them use 'elder' but what really irks me is not being considered an adult!
Does 'senior' necessarily imply 'senile'?

Speaking for myself, I'm not inclined to memorialize my generation. Oh, sure, there are a lot of us; but what have we accomplished so far? What are we leaving behind that posterity should remember us? Are we proud of our two (so far) boomer presidents?
Lately I'm wondering if there shouldn't be a competency exam before someone can be called an elder. Heaven forbid that any of us should look like one!

I like the word elder. Crone is good too but it only applies to women and too many would assume that meant witches. When I write, I use senior interchangeably for where I am in life, but it is confusing given there are seniors in high school too. Nobody else can be elders. As AlwaysQuestion mentions the one problem is it implies wisdom that elders don't always show but you can't find one word that does it all. The name, Elder Centers, works for me.

I coined a term a few months ago: Youthy. Call them Youthiness Centers.

I like elders, too, for the same reasons you do, Ronni. Maybe the problem is that the term does carry the connotation of respect --as in 'respect your elders' as I was exhorted as a child. From what I see, young people don't respect themselves much less anyone else. I hate 'senior' but I'll take the discount anyway.

Of course, I'm listening. I read you every day.

Perhaps the real problem is that those people born after 1946 have the same reaction to being called elder, senior, or old as people born before 1946 have to being lumped in with the boomers.

I don't like being lumped in with the boomers either. Of course when I was in my teens I didn't liked being called a teenager in that derisive way that adults had of making you feel with a word that you were trouble.

Grouping people by age to judge them is just wrong.

There are only two terms I'm comfortable with: "grizzled veteran" or "been-around-the-bend dude." Actually, the French usage, "of a certain age," isn't bad. All the rest are just euphemisms.

The agency I volunteer with tends to use the word 'elder' and I'm pretty comfortable with it. Denying aging just seems silly to me. I'm not sure, though, exactly where the line is between middle-aged and elderly. I think I will consider myself middle-aged as long as I can stay physically active.

As an aside, some sports, such as running, use the term 'masters' for their older age groups. Of course, I think they consider older to be anyone over 40.

My daughter just turned 37 and said she thinks of herself as middle-aged! I'm a full-fledged boomer born in 1949, and my husband was born in 1946, 9 months and 1 day after his dad returned from WW II. I think Baby Boomers are the only ones who like the term. We think it defines the word cool. Everyone else sees us for what we really are: kind of bratty kids who are getting old just like the rest of the world.

I'm swimming upstream here, but I like senior. It often denotes a promotion -- senior copywriter, senior in high school or college.

The problem is never changing the word, it's changing the social ideas. I've watched, for example, as the Civil Rights movement went through Negro, Afro-American, to African-American. Some of my students come from families that have been in America much longer than my Caucasian immigrant family and confide they don't like the hyphenation; they just want to be "Americans."

The push to change the name of a group keeps the nexus of issues before the public, but the real consciousness-changing work must go deeper.

I'm swimming upstream here, but I like senior. It often denotes a promotion -- senior copywriter, senior in high school or college.

The problem is never changing the word, it's changing the social ideas. I've watched, for example, as the Civil Rights movement went through Negro, Afro-American, to African-American. Some of my students come from families that have been in America much longer than my Caucasian immigrant family and confide they don't like the hyphenation; they just want to be "Americans."

The push to change the name of a group keeps the nexus of issues before the public, but the real consciousness-changing work must go deeper.

I stopped using the term 'Senior' to identify myself after writing a letter to the Editor. I identified myself as "Senior" after my name. The newspaper called me and asked which High School I attended. Lesson well learned; now I add "Retired".

I'm with E.S. Senior doesn't bother me. But for those it does,maybe we should play around with other terms for the center.
Adults Plus?/Up?/Only? Adulteraged? Experienced Folks?

How about PrimeTimers Community Center.

Let's face it, we change a word to match our feelings, then it's going to become the next target for disapproval.

There was just a letter to the editor in my local paper complaining about public funding for senior centers. The writer described them as "social clubs" and felt they should be supported by the people who use them.

Clearly this person had no idea of the many services senior centers provide to needy elders, or else he didn't care.

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