Editor, The Times:
I had the pleasure of being at a meeting the other day where there was a discussion about the word “senior”. There were comments about how people don’t like being classified as being a “senior”. My unthinking response was,” they should just grow up and get over it.”
On sober second thought, I realize how much that sounded like a mother talking to a tantrumming five year old. Being a person who has never acted her age, as I have been reminded on many occasions, I decided to pay attention to this human category called “senior”. By many definitions I belong in that category as I have had the requisite number of birthday celebrations. Hold on…. I am not 65 yet. Is that the defining number? My mother at 86 is also a member of this golden group.
I realized that I am a person who has always shied away from labels for groups of people. Labels for me mask the humanity of the individual found in the group. Stereotypes emerge from groups of people being labeled. I can only imagine what pops into your head when I say “teenager”, “toddler” or “senior”. I don’t dare get into the religious group names that spawn stereotypes. So is it the label “senior” or the stereotype that goes along with it people are objecting to?
My purpose for writing these words is to remind people that no matter how many times we have sailed around the sun on this marvellous planet, we are still individuals with individual needs, wants and thoughts. The word “senior” to me, means I have had a good number of life experiences. I hope it also means I can accept the necessity of words like “senior” to identify opportunities and activities open for me.
Senior also means an individual with interesting stories to tell and talents to share. Senior means time to sit and talk, time to share a meal, time to go for a walk with a friend.
Here is my challenge. The next time I find myself reacting to being called a “senior” or any other name that implies a stereotypical group I will pause and engage the speaker in conversation. I expect that as I get to know others better through conversation the stereotype will fall away and the human connection will blossom.
Now I can look beyond the common use of the word “senior” and apply it to my advantage. Indeed, I think I will change my category name and call myself a junior-senior.