What’s in a name? Well apparently, if you’re a boomer and the name is “senior,” quite a lot:
“A Hartford Courant columnist recently covered the odd phenomenon, in which Baby Boomers are torn between wanting a discount for their seniority in the population and refusing to admit to senior status:
“There is definitely a different mindset between boomers and the World War II generations and the language you use encapsulates everything,” says Jo Ann Ewing, senior services coordinator for the town [of East Hampton, CT]. “Many individuals in their 70s and 80s are fine with ‘senior’ status and senior savings, while baby boomers mostly are not.”
The solution, from a business point of view, may be a silly game of semantics. Restaurants, associations, and various businesses often replace the phrase “senior discount” with something less overtly age-based, so as not to turn off the lucrative boomer customer base. The AARP welcomes “members” (not “seniors”) starting at age 50, and all the perks are referred to as “member benefits,” not senior benefits or senior discounts. The word “senior” never pops up in the list of discounts at the boomer-specialty site StageofLife.com either.
Marketing to boomers — a generation sometimes criticized as being vain and self-involved — can be tricky business, especially when the products and services at hand are clearly intended for people struggling with the aging process. Businessweek pointed out that contractors expect that the renovating of Baby Boomers’ homes will be a huge business going forward, with boomers increasingly in need of “age-appropriate remodeling” ranging from toilet grab bars to elevators. But contractors must be very careful how they propose such projects.”
I wish this was just a “You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to” scenario. But I fear it is more closely related to a quote a friend sent me the other day which says: “The Boomers are going to be 100 before they admit to being 50.”
Denying we are aging and continuing to assert we have little to do with “seniors” will not serve us. Nor will playing semantic games with labels. Instead, we Boomers need to accept that we are growing older and decide to do it mindfully, intentionally and gracefully—-using our creativity to design the best possible environments in which to age, rather than to make believe we’ll be forever young. If we can do that, then a Boomer by any other name—even “senior”—will be aging well.