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Help the Word Nerd define himself

As I turn 70 in November, I’ve started to reflect on who I am.

Fifteen years ago I agonized on what to call the woman I lived with to whom I wasn’t married. I thought partner sounded right but twice when I referred to my partner in conversation, I was informed that this term had been expropriated by the gay community.

My latest word obsession is to create a term to describe folks like myself and many of you who are over 65 but uncomfortable with the terms “senior” or “elderly.”

“Elderly” connotes someone with physical disabilities; the former suggests a retired person who is less active than they were in their youth.

While these terms may have been apt for our grandparents, as Bob Dylan said a long time ago “the times they are a-changin’.”

After all, our increased life expectancy is staggering, and it has been calculated that by 2030 life expectancy will exceed 85. Research shows that reaching 65 for most people doesn’t mark a decline in performance.

Also, statistics show that people over 65 contribute approximately 20% of consumer spending and within two decades this amount is expected to increase to 25%. Whereas in 2000 only 12.8% of people over 65 were in the workforce, by 2016 this figure had climbed to 18.8% We all know that youth associate aging with decline and don’t comprehend that many older people feel and act much like their younger selves.

A recent study conducted by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) asked a group of millennials to reveal the age they considered to be old. This averaged out to be 59. Then they introduced the same group to some people 60+. A video shows how the millennials changed their perception after interacting with vibrant older persons and in the process relinquished their beliefs that aging involves decline.

Given that those in their 60s are far more active in many ways than previous generations, let’s find a more dynamic term for us. Here are some candidates: boomers, geriactives, the wise, nightcappers, silvers, sunsetters, honoured elders, yold (portmanteau of young/old).

This last term, unfortunately, in Yiddish, refers to a fool.

Another alternative is to create an acronym:

  • nyppies (not yet past it)
  • owls (older, working less) or older, wiser, learning
  • hopskis (healthy old people spending kids’ inheritance.
  • indy (I’m not dead yet).

What we call an age group might seem trivial but often the words used to classify a segment of society affects people’s attitudes toward the group.

Examples are flight attendant instead of stewardess, personal assistant rather than secretary, and extermination engineer instead of pest controller.

Given our rising importance and the lack of an accepted modern term to describe our stage of life, if you have a preferred word from the list above or a different suggestion, I look forward to receiving your ideas on how to solve my current word dilemma.

hrichler@gmail.com
Richler’s latest book is Wordplay: Arrranged and Deranged Wit

Editors Note

As a person who fits your definition or lack of it, I have had to come to terms (excuse the pun) with my age and designation.

Further I’ve had to battle the connotation of the word “senior” in my 31 years as a publisher of this newspaper. The front page headline of our first issue was “Power of the Elderly.”

Nowadays that would be considered an oxymoron. Just to stir up the pot, back in the 80s, Sid Stevens had a word for seniors: “Experienced Canadians.” Where does that leave the rest of us?

Let’s continue the debate with readers and friends alike but whatever we decide, I refuse to change the name of The Senior Times and give in to those who refuse to read us because they say they are not seniors.

They don’t know what they’re missing and they are self-agists. I think I just made up a new term. From the above options I prefer “hopskis” because it best defines me. However I shall not change the name of this newspaper to The Hopskis Times.

Or maybe I will. That’s what you call “Power of the Hopskis!”

— Barbara Moser, Publisher of The Senior Times

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