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I SAY SENIOR,
YOU SAY SEÑOR
By Frank Kaiser
Do you remember what they called geezers before they called them seniors? I don't. You don't either, I'll bet.

You and I were never going to get old enough to care. Fifty years ago, I remember thinking the then-popular euphemism for elders, "Golden Agers," was a crock. Golden, my butt!

The words geezers, codgers, and duffers were around then, too. But like "old farts," those handles never got traction. (Let's face it, how many seniors do you know who would step up and demand the "Old fart discount, please.")

Then, suddenly, and without warning, we were old farts ourselves. The phrase "Golden Agers" had morphed to "Seniors," and when the time came, we accepted that rubric with aplomb.

I bring this to your attention, as it seems that aging boomers don't like to be called "Seniors." According to the Second 50 Years Marketing Group, 50-something whippersnappers assert that the word "Senior" isn't good enough for them.

Poor things. Couldn't you just sit down and cry for these woeful youngsters? After years of worshipping at the altar of youth and all things young, to receive, out of the blue, that "Welcome to AARP" letter must freak the best of them.

Marketers are alarmed. If they can't call these new seniors "Seniors," what can they call them?

Think about it. What else works with ______ Discount, ______ Living Guide, and Free Stuff for _______?

Searching for a new euphemism to please ripening Boomers, focus groups were asked to react to a list of terms that might describe them. Here are the names the groups found least and most appealing:

Least Appealing

  • Older Boomers
  • Elders
  • Older People
  • Third Agers
  • Third Actors
  • Retired People
  • Senior Citizens

Most Appealing

  • The Experienced
  • Advisers
  • Coaches
  • Wise Ones
  • Masters
  • Seasoned Citizens

I think marketers should take a cue from the folks who really know how to flimflam: Washington politicians. Never calling a spade a spade, these new Orwellians call a bill that cuts funds for the aged a "Mature Enrichment Program" and one limiting Medicare benefits, "The Saving Senior Independence from Government Act."

In a world where bald is "follically challenged" and crippled is "differently-abled," it should be a cinch for marketers to come up with a good hoodwink for aging Boomers.

Instead of "Coaches" or "Advisers," how about "Sages?" That's a word with muscle, wisdom, and determination.

WHAT ABOUT JALOS? BYS?

Or, to borrow from the government's extensive use of acronyms, try JALOs, for those "Just A Little Older."

Even better, let's call our newest seniors NQYs, for "Not Quite Young." Even goofier is BYs, for "Be Wise" or "Beyond Youth" or possibly "Born Yesterday."

Actually, the big question about these wannabe seniors is: Are they worthy of joining what for many of us is the best time of our lives?

Where the aging Boomers see wrinkles, we see character. Where they think old, we think experienced. And where they fear loss, we cherish reinvention. Friends in place of things; faith in place of fear; laughter in place of whining.

To be truly deserving of the privilege of growing old — worthy to be called a Senior — Boomers must appreciate that they are entering an age where they'll finally learn the true meaning of courage, beauty, and wonder. And the limitless power of love and forgiveness, faith and gratitude.

Understand that, and it won't matter a whit what people call you.

© 2002 — Frank Kaiser


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Read last week's column:

SEX AFTER 60

(Probably a very short column)

by Frank Kaiser

Many of the younger generation, including our sons and daughters, find it disgusting that Granny and Gramps could still be doing it. "More than you think," says Frank. "Much more!"

CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY

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