A title in today’s (Thursday, 9/16) Salon reads “Why are so many seniors getting STD’s,” and when read it, I found it was about people over 45. My Facebook page invites me to meet seniors in my area, or ‘men over 50.’ AARP publications get tossed in the trash whenever they find me. Seriously? I’m in my 50’s and I’m a part of the growing “American Association of Retired People?”
I wrote AARP a letter about a year or so ago and told them that unless they take that elderly connotation away, I won’t be reading it. I mean who do YOU know that is retired at 51? (But if he’s single; I’d like to meet him. Kidding.)
We writers know that a word is NOT just a word. Do you know what the definition of senior citizen is? Google it and you will find; oldster, elderly, over 60 and retired. Don’t think you can shorten the term senior citizen to ‘seniors’ and avoid that connotation.
Am I age-phobic? I won’t lie; I’ve had my moments. But when you get down to the gritty truth, the phobia doesn’t come from a horrible entry into my 50’s, it has to do with existing in a youth-obsessed culture. One has to wonder; where in the world do I fit?
America, wake up. We the people in our 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and probably 70’s are not gray haired, wrinkled, unconnected to the contemporary world, retired, and slow moving. Don’t believe me? Visit Boulder, Colorado and watch your 30-something derriere get kicked by a woman in her late 60’s on a mountain trail. I am not joking.
One of the most competitive age groups in female triathlons is over 45.
The largest age group joining Facebook the last time I checked was over 55. It is a veritable party out there.
After I turned 50, I spent a few months in a sort of age-depression. For the first time in my life I skirted over my chronological age in panic when asked. It took a long time for reason to enter into the equation. I was in better physical shape than I had been in my 30’s, I took better care of myself emotionally as well, letting go of the crap that used to make me crazy and surrounding myself with those that lift me up, not pull me down. I finally knew what I wanted and how to go after it.
My friends encompass all ages, and one of my closest friends is a young man who is 27. I enjoy the company of my younger friends because their expectation of me is not, ‘oh, you are 50 and don’t do that.’ They remind me to remain open to new experiences, and that being silly is good medicine for the soul. I remind them to have the courage to trust themselves and to do what is best for them. I am fairly certain that they would never refer to me as ‘senior.’
And friends in my age group? Ahhh. We understand each other’s references, and say what we need to say. We bike, hike and enjoy an active lifestyle in the outdoors. Many of us are starting new businesses or new relationships and all of us are continuing to learn and grow as human beings. We are quite a fascinating group and are not hanging out around the television or obsessing with the ‘disease of aging.’
So advertisers and those in market research, editors, writers, and youth of America: Wake up and smell the coffee. We might be senior in our life ability skill, but we are not ‘seniors’. You might try to divide the world into the world of the young and the world of the old, but that is not an accurate reflection of age and generation and we are not listening. In fact, dare I say it? You are the only ones that make us feel ‘old.’
I think it’s time we come up with a new category catch-phrase for our mature, wise, fit and non-retired population, but I keep getting stuck on the word: enlightened, and while I enjoy it, perhaps it’s too close to the world of Buddha and Zen for most. In any case, it’s far past time for a new association.
Are you listening, AARP?