WILL BOOMERS CHANGE WORDS, PERCEPTIONS OR REALITY? Real changes are in store with the next generation of older adults. The quantifiable stuff is well documented: There will be more of them; they will live longer, and they will benefit from better medicine and healthcare.
But there’s also the inevitable, yet to be resolved changes: How will Boomers refer to themselves; where and what will they call “home”; will they “retire”; and what about “care”?
With history as a guide, change will be reflected through an amalgam of words, perceptions and reality. (i.e. Individuals are no longer referred to as “handicapped,” but rather as “disabled” or with “developmental differences.”)
But it often starts with words, and several that are on the verge of being replaced, redefined or reinvented include: seniors, home, care, retirement and community.
The word “Seniors” will continue to be replaced by “older adults,” which qualifies rather than labels our more experienced years. In this vein, the more contemporary “longevity” will gradually replace “aging.”
“Home” is a dicey proposition. Aging services providers are a little schizophrenic here. Rest home is an antiquated description along the lines of convalescent, old folks’ home and institution. In marketing, however, home, homey, homelike still resonate with prospective residents. The solution might be to redefine “home” by its essence, such as “comfort.”
“Care” is in jeopardy, too. It is a perfectly good word that may be discarded because its perception conflicts with a generation that prides itself on independence. Maybe care and independence intersect at “inter-dependence.” Or, perhaps reality will simply trump ego on this one.
“Retirement” may be retired and work may be repurposed as “purpose.” Many Boomers aspire to do something more interesting and less demanding than work. “Encore careers” is a term most often referenced to define a new professional purpose.
“Community” is especially ambiguous. For this word to have real value, more consistent geographic or demographic distinctions need to be assigned. Can aging services providers have communities within walls and naturally occurring retirements communities exists on the outside?
Combine the later three, as in “continuing care retirement community” (and “CCRCs without walls”), and it’s literally obvious why the aging services profession is on the verge of an identity crisis.
Professionals in the field of longevity have the opportunity to either defend or redefine such words. And as a result, positively influence perceptions and, eventually, reality as well. Check out Media Takes: On Aging, co-published by the International Longevity Center and Aging Services of California, for more information.