Talking About Age in English Posted by Gary Locke on Dec 3, 2020 in American English, Culture, English Vocabulary, idioms
I have a birthday coming up soon, and it’s a big one. You know, one of those birthdays where you get lots of mail trying to sell you things you thought were just for old people. How did that happen?
Words and Phrases for Old Age
I am what is known as a baby boomer, someone born after World War II when there was a significant increase in the world’s population. Boomers, as we are called, were born between 1946 and 1964. We remember the Beatles, Apollo 11, Watergate, and the great racehorse Secretariat. I saw Star Wars two days after it first opened and experienced the great east coast blizzard of 1978. You may need to look that last one up but, believe me, it was unforgettable.
People over the age of 60 in the US are generally called seniors, or senior citizens. That is the most polite, acceptable term. Other polite phrases are
- Advanced in years
- Mature or matured
- Golden ager
- Sexagenarian (between 60 and 70)
- Septuagenarian (between 70 and 80)
- Octogenarian (between 80 and 90)
- Nonagenarian (between 90 and 100)
- Centenarian (over 100)
The Benefits of Aging
But, you are best advised to stick with senior or senior citizen. The age to be recognized as a senior in order to qualify for certain benefits, such as a senior citizen discount among service providers will vary. Nevertheless, many restaurants, arts organizations, and retailers pass along savings or provide special benefits for seniors. People who are over 60 and beginning to live on a more restricted income will often ask if they qualify for senior benefits.
Most Americans over the age of 50 belong to the AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. This is an interest group, concerned with improving the lives of Americans over fifty years of age. It lobbies Congress and corporations on behalf of its members, sells insurance, provides consumer information, and is largely non-partisan. It also publishes the most widely-circulated magazine and newsletter in the country. The AARP membership card grants members discounts on many products and services. There were over 38 million members of AARP in 2018.1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AARP
There are some euphemisms, or more colorful and less proper phrases, for older people. While these are common, don’t let a senior citizen hear you say any of these about them. Don’t be surprised, though, if they say these things about themselves.
- Getting on
- Long in the tooth
- Not a spring chicken
- Not in his/her prime
- Over the hill
- Those days are past
You will also hear many seniors say these phrases about growing older.
- Age is just a number.
- Like a fine wine, I’m just getting better with age.
- I’m old enough to retire but young enough to enjoy it.
- 60 is the new 40.
- “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – attributed to Abraham Lincoln
- The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.
- You’re only as old as you feel.
Personally, I don’t care about getting older. It’s better than the alternative!
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