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What do seniors prefer to be called?

August 4, 2014

What's the best way to talk about a healthy lifestyle for seniors without offending them? A recent segment on National Public Radio focused on an often overlooked sentiment: what terms for aging do older people love and hate?

The inquiry was raised because NPR has a separate beat for aging, covered by Ina Jaffe. She tends to stick with "older people" or "older adults" when she's working on stories, but Jaffe was curious about what term this age group actually prefers. As a result, NPR launched a poll that received more than 2,700 responses.

While it seems like an overwhelming level of response, there wasn't an entirely clear winner. "Older adult" received 43 percent of the vote, with "elder" and "senior" each garnering a little under one-third of the positive responses. According to NPR, "elder" was supported because it sounds respectful and "senior" was less desirable when "citizen" is tacked on the end.

Because respondents weren't required to answer every question, three times as many people weighed in on unfavorable terms. Results showed that "golden years", "geriatric", "positive aging" and "successful aging" aren't what older people want to be associated with.