I found myself searching for a definitive definition the other day.
To no avail: there is no definitive definition, I soon learned.
I didn’t have a lot of time. I was editing a piece that seemed to label anyone 60+ as elderly. The government benchmark: If you’re old enough to get a federal and/or provincial pension — whether you have started taking it or not — you’re old, or elderly. You’re a senior citizen, though some people start taking advantage of seniors discounts in various commercial establishments by the age of 55, even 50.
But as one article on the Eldernet Gazette site pointed out, beyond the above parameters: “In many parts of the developing world, however, chronological time has little or no importance in the meaning of old age. . . . We often define old age not by years but by the changing roles we occupy in our families and societies and our ability to actively engage in society.”
Hey, some people work well into their 80s, even 90s. Would they take exception to being called “elderly”? How about a 70-something person in similar circumstances? Are you going to tell Mick Jagger he’s “elderly”?
I opted for the word “senior,” even though it encompasses anyone 55+. Better to be safe than sorry, because there is no consensus on when old age begins and when it is OK to generalize with terms like “elderly” — which scares the crap out of me, to be truthful. Don’t ever call me “elderly,” if you know what’s good for you.
Yes, I know I had to be objective when I was editing that piece. I wasn’t taking it personally. I wanted to take the least offensive path, to be as politically correct as possible. Many might object to being called “elderly,” I thought, but they really couldn’t argue with “senior,” even if they don’t like that label, either.
I can see the adjective “elderly” being retired sooner than later in these politically correct times. Yes, you can be an elder in your church congregation, but an “elderly” elder is a no-no.
Personally, and, yes, I am taking it personally now, I reject the “senior” label, too, even if I am technically in the age group government deems to be seniors. Not me, Big Brother. I’m not there yet.
No, I’m not in denial, though I might have thought I was had I not done some more research on the subject after I had finished editing aforementioned article.
“Aging is multidimensional and individual specific,” the Eldernet Gazette article says.
I’m thinking I will never retire. No pastures for me. I plan to keep engaging in society for as long as I possibly can — because if I stop doing that, I might start thinking I’m old. Fuck that . . .
I might just die at the keyboard . . . while editing a story about funerals?