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CBC Readers respond to use of the word "senior"

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Who are you calling a senior, junior? (iStock)

This week, CBC News launched a series on life for people 60 years and older: The New Retirement.

All week long, CBC News has been publishing stories on seniors who are doing remarkable things in their so-called twilight years. We've also been asking how readers feel about the use of the word "senior".

"Do you find it patronizing, or do you accept it? Is there a better word to describe people over the age of 60?"

Many of you responded, and the answers we received were thoughtful and varied.

Some of you were accepting of the term "senior" as a designation of honour as well as a sign of accumulated wisdom.

  • "The word senior is a word of respect that acknowledges that, with the passing of time, people gather experiences and insights that are of use to those that are coming behind them," said Peter Richtig.

  • 'Well, why not. If you're a senior, you're not only older but wiser, so take pride in being what you are.'

    -- Paul Pospisil
    "It's great, it fits us, just like you can call a young man or kid junior. I often refer to myself as 'old fogy'. Just do not address me as 'dear,'" an elder couple suggested.

  • "I am 66 years old and being addressed as a 'Senior' is fine. I do not object to it. I think it signifies some honour in being addressed as a senior than something insulting and derogatory," said Raman Chauhan.  "It is a fact of life and so no problem for me."

  • "The word 'senior', for me, is synonymous with freedom and empowerment.  One should train for becoming a senior, exercising mind and body," said James Fanning. "It should not be understood to imply a handicap or a perceived infirmity."  

  • "Well, why not. If you're a senior, you're not only older but wiser, so take pride in being what you are," said Paul Pospisil.

There were others among you that are accepting of the term but took umbrage to the way it can sometimes be used in day-to-day conversation.

  • "I don't mind the word 'senior,' but resent it when people say 'I'm having a senior moment' when referring to lapses in memory," Doreen Smith said.
  • "The term senior is certainly better than some alternatives like 'Old Bugger' etc., but I think 60 years is too young to be called senior. In my view 65 and perhaps even 70 would be more acceptable," another commenter said.

There were those of you who didn't feel that the word 'senior' is an adequate representation of where you are in life.

  • "I object to it," said Judith Bayliss. "I am 70 and still working full-time... I am on Facebook and Twitter and work as a fund developer in a very busy non-government organization... The word senior carries with it the connotation of everything I consider myself not to be. And I am not the 'odd person out' among my friends.This term really needs a re-think... why do we need a label anyway? Can anyone convince me that its necessary?"
  • "The problem with the label 'seniors' is that we all get lumped into the one category," said Johnny Ross. "I'm 66, ride motorcycle with my wife on the back, only gave up driving in demolition derby's four years ago, I hunt, fish, go boating and hiking etc and I just bought a new amp for my guitar so I don't feel like a 'senior' at all".

  • "While we break the childhood years of 1 to 21 into babies, toddlers, preteens, teens and young adults etc. We use one word senior to cover the ages 55 to 100. How old is a senior?" asks Pamerla Day. "At 67, I don't feel it applies to me while it does apply to my mother who is 94 at lives in a care home."

At the same time, many others offered alternatives they felt should take the place of the more objectionable word.

  • "Yes 'senior' is indeed demeaning and undignified. Start using 'elder.'  It possesses connotations of wisdom, experience and sound advice," said Brian Kellow.

  • 'I'd be willing to strive to become an 'elder,' but a 'senior'? Not so much.'

    -- Katie Talbot
    "I'd be willing to strive to become an 'elder,' said Katie Talbot. "But a 'senior'? Not so much."

  • "Men and women over 60 are often much more active, engaged and fit than those in previous generations so to label them as seniors describes a very different population than it once did," Marnelle Roberts commented. "However the words 'older adult' can encompass a broader range of ages, interests, energy, lifestyles that seem less limiting when describing people generally over the age of 60."

Several respondents wrote to us commenting that while the original article only refers to seniors' engagement with the social aspects of new technologies, they themselves have long been savvy across digital platforms.

  • Says Tim Hicks: "I am 63, and a social media senior... my generation invented this stuff... I did it for my first job. I used email when it was 'e-mail' and used green text on a black screen, with no mouse because they hadn't been invented yet... I have an iPad and an iMac and a website using WordPress. I use Photoshop daily and InDesign every month. I use Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Skype, and eleventy-three other tools. And there are many like me, not yet ready to be condescended to and helped across the street by some young whippersnapper who's too busy texting to be any use anyway."

  • "I am 77 & have been using computers, Facebook & Twitter for years," said Bob Chandler. "Why is that unusual? This message is coming from my BlackBerry Z10, my 3rd BlackBerry. I mention this because it is another technology used by many seniors.

  • "I think I've earned the term 'senior,' Susan Tileston suggested. "At 70 and 71 my husband and I have been running the MY STORY photo project on the Thai-Burma border and beyond for 8 years.  We give digital cameras and basic photo instruction to refugees and internally displaced persons on both sides of the border... They keep us active, engaged, and hopeful for the future."

Thank you to everyone who wrote in and sent us their pictures, we always enjoy hearing from you and reading your feedback.


Tags: CBC, Community Reaction

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