Our features editor Karen Halliburton

Who are you calling a senior citizen? Call me seasoned, call me fun, call me positive, call me friendly, but for the love of God, DON’T call me a senior citizen; it’s the other “s” word that shouldn’t be used at all! Ageist labels like the word senior perpetuate the idea that old is feeble.

In American society when you hear senior citizen you think cane, walker, wheelchair, nursing home and adult diapers! Western culture does not honor folks who have lived more than half a century instead aging is depicted negatively. On these shores, we are not placed on pedestals, the aging process is not celebrated, and elders are not venerated. We are seen as people who are losing value with each passing year. In places like Africa, Asia and Greece, elders are highly respected and are central to a family.

I’m not accepting the term senior citizen. Nope!

In our culture, 20 to 30-year-olds are young adults. When you reach your 40s to 50s you are middle-aged. Sixty’s to 70s are considered seniors and 80-plussers are referred to as elderly (which I also find offensive, elder is more apropos, but that’s another discussion).

What is a senior anyway?

When you turn 50, you begin receiving invitations to join AARP. There are discounts and perks offered to those who are 55 and over. I don’t want to be placed in a silver box with a group of people who are given discounts and then swept aside!

And speaking of being swept aside, advertisers are our biggest offenders because as soon as we turn 50, we fade to black in their eyes. Advertisers believe that the TV viewing audience is forever young. As far as marketing, the focus is on consumers ages 18 to 49.

According to the ad agency J. Walter Thompson’s Specialized Communications, Mature Market Group, today’s 50-plus market accounts for more than $7.6 trillion in buying power, yet, less than 10 percent of today’s advertising focuses on people over the age of 50. Bank of America Merrill Lynch projects that the global spending power of those age 60-plus will reach $15 trillion annually by 2020, so older citizens are not weighing down the economy. Today’s olders are seeking meaning, purpose, and are looking to disrupt the retirement norms to express their increasing interest in lifelong work and volunteering.

Yet advertisers just don’t get it. And they are foolishly missing out on a huge untapped market.

American society is so influenced by advertisers who continue to devalue us by featuring seniors in a state of decline and deterioration. We have been indoctrinated with images of older folks as hunched-drooling-at-the-mouth-Depends-wearing-rocking-chair–sitting-frail individuals. We are nothing like our great-grandparents or even our grandparents. We move, we strut, we sway, we sashay, we’ve got swag. Many of us just don’t feel old, we feel wise with many seasons under our belt. We have journeyed through and survived the various spices of life.

The number of people aged 60 years and over has tripled since 1950, reaching 600 million in 2000 and surpassing 700 million in 2006. We are living longer than any previous generation, and healthier. We don’t need the mental midgets on Madison Avenue to patronize us with annoying aging reminders like denture adhesives, arthritis or incontinence cure-alls.

We know the deal.

Aging is inevitable; however, it’s time for a rebranding. Searching the Internet there were names like olders (not too bad), people-of-a-certain-age (better), the wise (well, most of us), seasoned, ageless, vintage. The term for aging that I connected with most was perennials. Perennials aren’t guaranteed to blossom year-after-year, however, with care, good rich soil, and nutrients, they can live on and on.

We are perennials who are taking better care for ourselves, eating right, exercising more and getting lots of sunshine so that we can keep coming back better than ever year-after-year.

My name is Karen and I am a perennial….