Seniors Picky Over What They Are Called

Terms used to describe seniors are increasingly outdated and offensive, according to a survey conducted by

The survey gauged the responses of 1,114 people to the language used when describing individuals 50 and older. The linguistic map needs an update, as certain words and phrases have fallen out of fashion, or worse, become patently offensive.

Most respondents (71%) were comfortable with the term "Baby Boomer," but opinions were evenly split over the term "senior," with only 49% approving. Furthermore, when addressing ageism, or discrimination based upon age, the survey found that half of respondents said they had been victims of ageist stereotypes, while 72% said that they knew someone who had.

Overall, considering the current generation of retirees is expected to live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life, language that communicates health and activity will likely get better traction.



"Our survey results clearly show how certain words, acceptable a generation ago, have rapidly become taboo," says Kevin Williams, president of, in a release. "'Nursing home,' for example, calls up all kinds of unpleasant ideas; 94% of respondents said that 'nursing home' had the worst association in their mind out of all choices presented.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, 44.2% agreed that the terms “senior living” and “retirement community” are outdated. However “retirement community” only had a 13% negative association versus “retirement home,” which had a 48% negative association.

If "nursing home" calls up such powerfully negative emotions, then certainly there are words that produce a more favorable response. Williams notes that "community" has appealing overtones, whereas "facility" is somewhat dehumanizing.

"Knowing the preferred terms when talking about particular groups of people is important from both a human and marketing perspective,” Williams said. “The wrong word or phrase can alienate your target audience overnight. The world of politics is rife with these avoidable blunders; businesspeople would do well to learn from such mistakes and set a better example."

1 comment about "Seniors Picky Over What They Are Called".
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  1. Heidi Tolliver-Walker from Digital Printing Reports, July 9, 2013 at 11:38 p.m.

    I was reading this article with objective interest until I realized that I, myself, am only five years from being in this category. Suddenly, the content got very personal. I cannot imagine how I would respond if the term "senior" were applied to me!

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