Home Health & Fashion Culture Seniors: Go Ahead and Claim Your “Super Adult” Identity

Seniors: Go Ahead and Claim Your “Super Adult” Identity

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Super Adult

By Julie Dee Suman, PhD 

May I have the super adult discount? I’m 51 years old, and in AARP terms, I’m considered a senior citizen, but I certainly don’t feel like senior discounts apply to me. Society would argue that I’m not “old” until Medicare eligibility at 65. Others may claim that senior citizen status starts when you draw Social Security. (Do those definitions change if I retire early?) 

The Social Security Act of 1935 determined that 65 equated with senior status. At that time, doctors and scientists countered that old age should relate to other factors like chronic health conditions, economic status, and family history – that society should consider aspects of modern life when defining a “senior citizen.” I could get behind “You’re as young as you feel.” 

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states there will be 40 million older adults by 2030 (note that “older” is not defined). However, many of this cohort still hold jobs. Some will be taking expeditions around the world. Others may be helping raise young grandchildren. Some may have delayed having children until later in life and are years away from grandkids. You see older adults embracing technology, social media, workouts, and actively participating in society. “Feeble” is not how I would describe seniors, and nor should you. 

Related: Staying Sexy After 60

In Eastern societies, elders are revered for their wisdom. They have a position in a culture that garners respect. But in the Western world, the words “old-timer,” “geriatric,” and even “Boomer” imply that you’re somehow incapable or behind the times.  

So, what moniker describes this diverse group? A survey conducted by Ina Jaffe from NPR to identify new terms for aging indicated that “older adults” received the most votes. “Older adults” is considered polite and is vastly more preferred than “senior citizens.” “Senior” and “elder” also made the acceptable list. 

Jaffe further went on to identify a possible new term that she heard on Twitter. The person she followed tweeted that she was buying tickets to a show in London, and instead of a “senior discount,” they used the term “super adult.” Jaffe felt the term acknowledges that you’ve reached an age where you have done something great. (It also calls up vague notions of superheroes in capes and masks.) 

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the term “super adult.” It reflects a vibrant group with much to give to society and living on their terms. However, please note this warning: I googled “super adult” and found myself looking at ads for adult diapers. Not exactly empowering, but let’s take that as a challenge to show that older Americans are indeed “super.”