Seniors, Aging and Language

Oct 6, 2014

Fresh ApproachAnyone who knows me knows I believe that we need new language to describe work, retirement and aging. I use the term “pretirement” to indicate an evolving stage of work during which people want to continue working in their life’s profession, but with more flexibility.

Words matter. And the language isn’t quite catching up with reality.

A 2014 survey by insurance industry website found that “senior” is still the default choice for 49 percent of 200 respondents, while 38 percent preferred “mature adult.”  Zero percent selected “elderly.”

Anthropologist Franz Boas published the 1911 book, “Handbook of American Indian Languages,” which “ignited the claim that Eskimos have dozens, or even hundreds, of words for snow,”  according to an article in The Washington Post. Many have scoffed at the claim over the decades. But the article cited research that shows that Boas was on to something.

Eskimos and other native peoples have lived with snow conditions for a long time, giving rise to a range of descriptive terms. It’s only been recent years during which Americans have had experience with work flexibility, work at home, pretirement and other work arrangements. Time and thought ought to lead to better terms, idioms and descriptions of work and aging.

I for one am determined to find those new words.

— Sharon Emek, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE)


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