Why ‘Senior’ is NOT a Bad Word

All throughout their lives, children want one thing – to be a “big kid”. They would give anything to be able to choose their own bedtime, cross the street by themselves, or select their own diet. Then, once these goals have been accomplished, kids cannot wait to become a “teenager”, and dive into its associated benefits – a driver’s license, and the thrill of first entering high school. After this, we all look forward to moving away from home, getting a full-time job, and entering the “real world”. Starting a family is a common desire following this. Why is it, that all throughout life we as humans crave “growing up”, but as soon as we hit a certain dreaded age, we loath being referred to as “senior citizens”?

There is a huge amount of stigma associated with aging. The media takes every opportunity they can to point fingers at the once “young-and-beautiful” stars who have become too wrinkly for Hollywood. To be honest, the physical signs of aging should not be fought. Sagging skin adds character, and white hair is saved only for the wise. A 2008 New York Times article entitled “Whatever You Do, Call It Work”, stated that many Americans are becoming reluctant to call themselves retirees. However, it can be argued that individuals work for years of their life to be able to enjoy not having a job, when they have finally saved up enough money to sustain themselves without a steady income. Retirement marks a time in one’s life where he or she can reap the benefits of a full-time holiday. It is a time during which citizens can enjoy various activities, travel to interesting locations, and of course – realize that for once in your life, you will not need a resume, have to wake up a certain hour, or report to that boss who is actually younger than you because of their “modern” approach.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/business/retirement/21social.html?_r=4&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Calling yourself a “senior” should not be something shameful. Yes, it may mean you look older, have slower reflexes, and an array of potential medical issues associated with aging. But it also means that you have paid your dues – you have worked hard through your life to enjoy an extended long-weekend. It means that you have years of experience and wisdom that young people should be scared to question. Just as teenagers are stereotyped to be reckless, irresponsible, and risky, and toddlers are commonly accused of being mischievous and sneaky, being in the senior age group has its associated stereotypical behaviour and characteristics. It is very important to understand though, that these stereotypes hardly ever apply to every single senior citizen, and are commonly blown out of proportion. C’mon now, not all of the elderly set their cruise control on 40km/h, and BINGO may be popular, but seniors have other fun and interesting hobbies as well.

Somewhere along the lines the term “senior” became associated with a negative connotation. This term is commonly linked to someone who is higher up in a hierarchy, someone with more knowledge than his or her subordinates, or someone who has worked their way up to earn this title. Going to senior kindergarten is the first step to what seems like much bigger and better things at the time – grade school. A senior in high school is the most respected; they are big fish in a small pond. The elders in Church, in Native bands, and across Asian cultures, are looked up to. The term “senior” should be associated with respect, not shame. Society is coming up with new terms to use as synonyms, because of this negativity towards using the word “senior”. For instance, the terms “boomer” and “zoomer”, although completely appropriate, are masking the main issue with being a senior – age. Old age should not be considered a burden, but a gift. Seniors today should learn to embrace this title. Like I said at the start of this piece, becoming a senior citizen is just another stage of the circle of life. It is just another step in “growing up”.

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