Boomer? Elder? Senior? What Should We (60+) Be Called?

Do you love to be pigeon-holed or marginalized? I know I don’t! A speaker at a recent conference said older adults were no longer “producers” but “drainers.” To me, that characterization was a slap in the face. In my mind, a line was drawn. It brings who we are as older people into question.

Are we only valuable as consumers? Or, are we a societal handicap because we use medical services at a higher rate than other age groups? Truly and economically, we are important to our country. Older adults impact many parts of our society in positive ways.

If there were no Medicare program, who would employ your granddaughter when she finishes nursing school?

Our healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, household technologies, comfort clothing and shoes, and air-quality systems are designed and succeed because they use the health of older adults as their standard of service. Older adults generate meaningful jobs and literally support health and medical professionals.

Books and book clubs, art, movies, and concerts are all eagerly sought by older adults across the cultural spectrum. We get to reflect our value with poetry and commentary. We have shaped cable TV and made Facebook the new family photo album.

We are the early voters, the vote-by-mail voters, and must accept that it was the older adult vote that shaped our current consciousness. So, we do make a difference.

Yes, I’m a Boomer. I didn’t choose to be one, but like the rest of my giant generation, I was born into it. And because I’m in my sixties,I face new and sometimes frightening situations. My appearance is changing, I need to avoid foot pain, and adjust for my declining vision. The economics is that I’m encouraged to consider crèmes,balms, and inserts along with long soft blouses and walking shoes. All which I have to purchase. So, I still care about my appearance and not so much what my neighbors think.

If we just hang out with our same age group, we may be reinforcing some worn out ideas. I’m beginning to think we are missing something if we just stay within our generation. We need to reach out to other generations like Millennials. As I see it, we have a great deal in common. Those in their 20s and 30s are faced with an unsure future filled with questions about how and where to live, what to do for work and play, and how to get there, and staying healthy and happy in the process.

Questions we Boomers had at their age, and that we still have today. They are social and curious, and that sounds like me. Rather than see the insurmountable,they seem to think they are invincible. I dig that because I’m a boomer, ex-hippie, and a “question authority” kind of gal!
The critical difference between Millennials and older adults may be how we approach our financial futures. I’m faced with the tax consequences of taking early social security, the looming threats to Medicare, and having sufficient savings to support a monthly income until age 90
or beyond. Serious topics that are frequently found under the column “Senior Services.” So that means I am a senior—that financial juggernaut where benefits and services are recalculated. For some, there are pensions and IRAs. For others it is qualifying for assisted living and
becoming eligible for both Medicare and Medical.

Whereas 30-somethings are undergoing meta-data analysis on where they will eat next and what shoes they’ll buy, seniors are lumped together to determine which health services and social supports should be cut.

So as an elder to my GenX, GenY, and GenZ friends, I am more than a person with white hair and lots of experience to share. I bring a need for their time and talents. I bring interest in their wants and needs. I bring the generation of grandparents to care for their newborns and their favorite family recipes.

When people say “elder,” you are either the oldest in the group, like being the elder sister. My older sister hates that. Or, you’ve have advanced age relative to your life span. Coming from a youth culture, this latter point of view is hard to accept.

But accept we can.

We are the elders for the next generation. We share hopes and dreams. Leave the nostalgia behind and look at how each of the generations is being marketed to and regulated against.

So I’m a boomer by birth, a senior based on statistics, and an elder depending on the company I keep. And, you? Who are you? A category? A person?

Please make comments at or send commentary to Heart of Ida – AgeWell Long Beach Magazine, PO Box 8194, Long Beach, CA 90808.


Dr. Gretchen Swanson, DPT, MPH
creator of the Long Beach-based Health and Function blog:

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