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What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name?

Are we the aged, oldies, elders or just seniors? JUDY RAFFERTY is surprised to find she is officially elderly but welcomes Seniors Month.

I have been diagnosed by my GP as being elderly. I thought I was popping in to tell him that my right knee was a bother. He looked at me, checked my date of birth and said solemnly “now you are elderly it is likely that these things will start to happen.”

I cannot even blame him for being an uninformed young doctor. He is my age. It seems that age 65 onwards is considered elderly.

I have read in the media of people being described as elderly, and then I’ve discovered they were only in their mid or late 60s.

I thought this was loose journalism aiming to ramp up the emotion in the reader but no, it seems the description is technically accurate.

So now it is Seniors Month. I think that Seniors Month has a more positive flavour than Elderly Month. Senior has a certain gravitas.

I remember my older siblings moving from Junior (grade 10) to Senior (grade 12). There was senior school. Someone’s dad was Mr Smith senior and the son was junior. Senior seemed to have cache. It was something to aim for.

I am happy to be a senior, waving my little discount card at every opportunity. However, if I could choose my own nomenclature I would like to be described as an Elder – preferably with a capital. I think I have earned a capital E.

I have looked at the lovely range of activities scheduled for Seniors Month in many parts of Queensland. My observation is that the activities are being put on by groups on seniors.

While there is nothing wrong with this, I think it is a missed opportunity.

I would love to see Seniors Month being an opportunity for our Elders to be seen and heard – to be invited on to panels, do radio interviews, visit schools.

I have been very fortunate to be involved (on the periphery) with a program to bring school students and older folk together over a number of months. You might have watched on the ABC or read about the success of this program for both elders, mostly in their 80s, and young people.

While the title we give to the aged is important, age is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

On the program mentioned above I was accompanied by a beautiful young (to me) practitioner in her mid 40s. She asked to join one little group of youngsters seated with their assigned Elder.

There was a moment of consternation among the young people. Finally, one boy spoke up and said to this woman with a flawless complexion and not a line to be seen “sorry we’ve already got an old person.”

Happy Seniors Month. I hope you will be acknowledged for the wisdom and experience you bring.

Judy Rafferty  is the author of Retirement Your Way, A Practical Guide to Knowing What You Want and How to Get It, at all good bookshops and online.

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