Saturday, March 15, 2014


The article "6 Things You Should Never Call Someone Over 50" published in Huffington Post got me thinking yet again about labels for the over 50.

I have yet to find a name for baby boomers that is acceptable to them. It can be a challenge whenever I write about this demographics. 'Baby boomers' needs explanation when used in Malaysia and Singapore. Not everyone knows that the term refers to those born between 1946 to 1964, during the euphoria of the post-WW2 years that led to a baby boom.

My mom and I - we turn 87 and 66 this year. She does not mind being called 'elderly'. Our young local media reporters will likely label me 'elderly' too. 

The new face of the 50plus
One name that should never be used for us is 'the elderly'. That name should be reserved for those aged 80 and above. It does not help public perception of us when young reporters liberally use the term for anyone who is older than they are! 'Elders' is slightly better than 'elderly' as it denotes wisdom and respectability, as compared to frailty and senility.

'Seniors' is a safer name to use. Even so, I am cautiously hesitant when giving out my SeniorsAloud name card. Some people do look older than their age, and grey hair is not always a telltale sign of someone's age. If I am unsure, I'll say "Please share this card with your parents (or grandparents)".

We have all heard the oft-repeated quotes that age is just a number, and that age does not matter unless you are cheese. True, but older women are sensitive to labels that may suggest even the slightest hint that they are ageing.

Pretty grandmas all in a row. Cynthia Ong of Malaysia (centre) was announced the winner of Grandma Universe 2014 pageant held in Bulgaria on 21st Jan 2014. These ladies would be offended if they were referred to as 'elderly' or even 'seniors'.

Admittedly, we all grow older, but growing old has a degree of pessimism attached to it. We can't remain young forever, but we can certainly retain our youthfulness. We can be young at heart and young in spirit. Ah, the power of words! They affect how we feel and how we make others feel about themselves.

If we keep on saying that we are 'old already' and we can't do this or that, or that we are 'useless' and just 'waiting to expire', we are reinforcing the negative public perception of who we are. It's time we changed that, and change has to start with us. Growing older has its many challenges, but why dwell on them and feel depressed when we have a choice to look at the bright side and count our blessings?

In the final analysis, it's more important what we think of ourselves than what others think of us. Live life to the full, and be thankful for each new day.

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