Who’s a Senior, What’s a Senior?

By Peter Kilkus

One of my favorite sayings is: You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing!

While insurance adjusters, health care planners, and social security analysts note with trepidation our lengthening life expectancy, and leisure industries scramble to cater to bored retirees, many of us realize that there is still important, but different, work for “elders” to do.

What is old age for? Anthropological studies conclude that old age is humanity’s greatest invention! On a deeper level old age invented us. It propelled the development of culture, language, and society. A million years ago on the plains of Africa, the first grandmother helped her daughter and grandchildren survive. The deliberate enlistment of grandparents into the work of rearing the young stands as a defining characteristic of human beings.

An African proverb says, “The death of an old person is like the loss of a library”. Our growing number of elders represents an unprecedented windfall to society. Older adults have always made important contributions to the young of their families and communities.

For those of you who remember the trauma of turning 30 during the “don’t trust anyone over 30” days of the 60s, the turning 60 birthday in the 21st century may feel even worse. But almost no one I know says they feel like a “senior” even though they may be well over 60. I’ve asked younger people to join the Center and they’ve said, “I can’t (translated as “I don’t want to”) because I’m not a “senior”. “Senior” has gotten a bad reputation as “old and decrepit” in too many people’s minds.

Maybe there should be a contest to see what new word can be used to replace “senior”. At one Center Board meeting years ago I mentioned that I just don’t feel like a “senior” and Betty Pedersen, who was 83 at the time, an adventurer and co-founder of the Center 34 years ago, jumped right in with  “Neither do I!”

“Older Adult” is currently the most politically correct term. Maybe we should say “Super Adult” instead of “Senior Citizen”?

So how can we translate philosophy into action at Lake Berryessa? By joining the Lake Berryessa Senior Center & Community Hall - no matter what your age. The Center is committed to providing older adults, families and children with a friendly, supportive environment for social interaction, recreational activities, educational opportunities, community involvement, and access to public services. And it is the only full-service meeting and event facility in eastern Napa County.

May 2018 was Older Americans Month and the theme, ”Engage at Every Age”, emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities. Older people are actively participating in life far longer and with robust energy and consciousness.

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018