Friday, 21 November 2014

Is 'senior' the right word?

I spoke with someone recently who had issues with the word 'senior' to denote people over 60. The logic is that it is in some way derogatory and that most people in that age bracket and beyond prefer to be called 'elder persons'. I frankly have trouble wrapping my head around that terminology and think that being called an 'elder person' is far more negative (one of the synonyms for 'elder' according to the dictionary is 'ancient'). The term 'senior' denotes more prestige to me. We have Senior Vice-Presidents, Senior Officers, Seniors in High School or College, and Seniors in life. Doesn't senior conjurer up someone who has earned respect and a distinction as someone with experience and expertise? Somehow "Elder' does not give me the same warm fuzzy feeling! Elder maybe too close to 'older' and while some communities have 'Elders' who run them, most do not.

So I went to a thesaurus to see if there could maybe be a better term to describe senior folks - I quite like 'Chief' but I don't know if others would. The interesting thing is not the synonyms but the antonyms (opposites) - 'minor, behind, inferior, junior, unimportant'. Perhaps that says more about the true value of someone with age and experience behind them than anything else. So maybe we should not be so worried about the words we use and focus more on what they mean........

Regardless of how old you are now, one day with any luck, we will all be 'senior' - if you aren't there yet or even if you are, what do you think the best word to describe someone over 60 is?

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