New term for Senior Citizen needed: Baby Boomers may apply

Shortly after the nation’s first Baby Boomer applied for Social Security, I believe the need for a new term in our vocabulary became apparent. Based on what I read and my own informal cocktail party polls, the descriptor “senior citizen” is not very desirable when you’re talkin’ ’bout my generation (great black/white 1967 video of The Who!). I mentioned in a previous post about speaking to numerous directors of lifelong learning programs throughout the country. They described how difficult it is to attract Baby Boomer students. One issue is that most Baby Boomers find the idea of attending classes located in a Senior Center as very unattractive. The general message that Boomers don’t view themselves as an “old person” has been loud and clear.  The director of a facility in the Mid-West told me the board of directors decided to change the look of their recreation center to have the appearance and feel of a ski lodge– even though this state doesn’t even have ski-able mountains.

Another outdated signifier in the Boomer world is the word Grandma (maybe grandpa too, but I only know about female celebrities). If Blythe Danner and Goldie Hawn don’t want to be called grandma then maybe I don’t either. The term conjures up a photo I have of my grandma at just about the age I am now-but she looks so much older. She is grey-haired with no makeup, wearing a “housedress” and orthopedic shoes as she stands beside her stovetop………cooking. Much as I adored my grandma and have fond memories of time spent in that kitchen, I cannot relate to anything in either her appearance or her lifestyle (uh…cooking).

But is the “hope I die before I get old”  (again ladies and gentlemen-The Who) mantra just giving fuel to those who market to Baby Boomers? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Figuring out what aging Boomers want and then passing information on to companies to produce those tangibles can be a good thing in terms of enhancing our quality of life. My grandma’s generation became almost invisible as they aged. The expectation was that older adults did things like sit quietly in a rocking chair, knit, play pinochle or tell stories about “the old country”.  Boomers are different. We will not go gentle into that good night. This generation is so fortunate to have choices about how we conduct our older adult life. Maybe we use anti-aging products, choose to have a second career, take Viagra or give up the house buy an RV and hit the road. None of these options seems to connote a typical “senior citizen”.

Before I knew about Susanna Starr‘s book entitled “Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being“, I thought the acronym for Fifty And Beyond (FAB) might be a nice shorthand term for aging Baby Boomers. After the British Invasion of 1962, “fab” (British slang for fabulous) crept into our vernacular as well. I think I first heard Patty (or Cathy?) call something “simply fab” on the The Patty Duke Show. Anyway, my programmer and I liked it enough to name the search feature on Snabbo–”Fab Finder”.

“Fab” is just one idea for updating “senior citizen”. Send me yours and I will post them on the Snabbo Home Page as our Featured Group. You can contact me through joining the Snabbo community (now there’s a thought),  send an email to marketing at snabbo dot com or direct message me on Twitter @snabbo.

Below is a bit of dialogue from one of my favorite scenes in the movie “Parenthood”.  For more click here.

Julie: [door slams as Tod leaves after having a fight with Julie] If he thinks I’m having his baby now, he’s crazy!
Helen: [shocked] Baby?
George Bowman: Your daughter’s having a baby?
Helen: [even more shocked] A baby?
George Bowman: You’re going to be a grandma?
Helen: [laughs incredulously] No, no, no, no. I’m too young to be a grandmother. Grandmothers are old. They bake, and they sew, and they tell you stories about the Depression.
Helen: I was at Woodstock, for Christ’s sake! I peed in a field! I hung on to The Who’s helicopter as it flew away!
[gestures wildly]
George Bowman: I was at Woodstock.
Helen: [shouts] Oh yeah? I thought you looked familiar!

Grandma & Me




Tech and the Senior Girl

My mother never wants anyone to know her EXACT age, let’s just say she is qualified to get Senior Citizen discounts, she gave birth to me in 1953 and she was 27 years old at the time.  As they say, you do the math.  My mother retired after 22 years of owning her own staffing agency only 3 years ago. For someone her age, she is pretty tech-savvy and definitely tech-curious. She loves Facebook, email, and playing games on the computer. She joined LinkedIn, loves to sign up on websites and post comments and she wants to learn how to Twitter. About a year ago I opened up an iTunes account for her and handed over my old iPod. She has taken it on several cruises and plays it in the kitchen through the speaker device I gave her. Recently, I got an iPhone and she was really fascinated by all the stuff it can do-most particularly talking to “Siri”. My middle daughter decided she may be ready to graduate to an iPod Touch so she re-gifted “Memaw” her old one. We presented a brief tutorial, handed her a stylus to make the typing a bit easier and now she is off and running. The device has opened up another world for her to explore and learn and the fact that she is mastering a new technology has been a boon to her self-esteem.

My mother’s experience is nothing new to researchers who investigate aging and technology as well as the learning process unique to older adults.  The notion behind older adult learning theory is that immediate relevance and problem-solving are the biggest motivators for acquiring knowledge in an unfamiliar area.  It took a while but many senior citizens finally gave in and joined Facebook because communicating with their grandchildren was a very relevant priority in their lives. In fact, some of those grandkids had more patience than their parents and took the time to show their grandparents how to set up a profile page.  Who would have thought that helping Granny post her “status” would replace baking chocolate chip cookies as an inter-generational bonding activity? My favorite adult child teaching their parents how to navigate the tech world is Tech Savvy Daughter. Her family outgrew the need for her computer skills so now she kindly helps the rest of us! More senior centers and other areas where older adults gather have also gotten on board in terms of providing both computers and computer education programs. Companies like SeniorNet and Senior Surf are two that come to mind.

The need to problem-solve is an additional motivator for learning in later years. Knowing how to search the Internet for information in such areas as healthcare, travel arrangements and particularly Medicare questions is so important for seniors who want to remain independent. The issue of retaining independence as we age will certainly be enhanced by rapid technological advances in home monitoring and health devices. Products like Apple Interactive Care, Life Alert (“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”) and Philips Medication Dispensing Service have provided seniors living alone and their children at least some peace of mind.

But luckily (at least for now), my mother is very content using her iPod for pure entertainment. Rockin’ out to Frank Sinatra while she slings Angry Birds at those annoying little pigs.