By: Jim Barfield

The theme of this month’s magazine is senior citizens. So have you ever wondered where the expression “senior citizen” originated? It began in the late 1930s and referred to an “elderly or aged person, especially one who is retired or whose principal source of support is a pension or Social Security benefits.” This replaced the term “old age pensioner.” Over the years it has been accepted for people in their late 50s and up.

While considering what to write, I came to the realization that at my age of 59, even though I am not at retirement age, I am considered a senior citizen by many organizations. I can receive a senior’s discount in many establishments and I received my application to join AARP when I was 50. What? How did this happen? My parents were seniors, but not me. Does this mean becoming a senior citizen is reaching old age? My own opinion is no.

There are over 76 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) who are becoming “senior citizens.” As a group, baby boomers have been the wealthiest, most active and most physically fit generation with the expectation that the world is improving with time. This generation could reap the benefits of high levels of and quality of food, clothing, vacations, retirement and products. “There is a sense among members of the baby boom cohort that they are special or unique,” according to an AARP report. “This sense of uniqueness has been reinforced throughout their life cycle.”

Because of the baby boomer generation, the perception of what age a person reaches old age has changed. A Marist Poll asked the question: Do you think that a person who is 61 years old is young, middle-aged or old? More than 63 percent believed someone who is 61 is middle-aged; 15 percent say 61 is young while 22 percent say it is old. The age of the respondents was very different; the majority of those 45 and older say 61 is middle-aged.  The majority of those younger than 45 say 61 is middle-aged while over a third said they are old. Middle-age is generally understood to be the third quarter of a person’s life meaning I will reach old age at 84.

What this means is our perception of old age gets older as we get old. Age is whatever we make it. In my opinion, there should not be a terminology for reaching a certain age. We are a generation of active adults who are very health conscious. Why do we really need to call people senior because they are older than others? Health wise, many are healthier than those much younger. I was a senior in high school and in college, so why now I am a senior citizen? We don’t call people “junior citizens,” so why do we call them “senior citizens?” We do not need age labels.
However, I will make sure I ask for my discounts.

About the Author:

Jim Barfield is the president, CEO and co-owner of Luke & Associates, Inc. on Merritt Island. His company, founded in 2004, is a major provider of medical and clinical support services for the military. In addition, Luke provides advis-ory and assistance services in the fields of engineering, research, information systems and medical systems.