Selectively "Senior": When Do You Consider Yourself a Senior?

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What is it about the passing of years that gives us a love/hate approach to life? We talk about aging as a derogatory term, but isn't living longer a wonderful chance to truly embrace life to its fullest?

These conversations continue to spark interesting dialogue. In the interest of full disclosure, I am the communications director for FiftyForward, a 60-plus-year-old, Middle Tennessee non-profit. FiftyForward celebrates, champions and serves older adults by helping them stay active and engaged to live independently as long as possible. When it comes to these heartfelt discussions, I am all eyes and ears.

As a 50-something, I often find myself immersed in debates on whether "old friend" is an offensive term or not. Don't even begin the discussion surrounding the term "senior." Older adults either have an adoring admiration for the term - and the legacy of this demographic group - or they are vehemently opposed to the sheer thought that they might belong to that demographic.

My father was one of those folks. Wise beyond his years and an eternal optimist, he was often invited by his girlfriend, whom he met in cardiac rehab (seriously), to have lunch at the senior center. He'd go begrudgingly and later say, "Those folks are too old." At that point, he was 90-something and had just flown a glider plane.

All of this begs the question: What's "too old," and where is the line of demarcation? When do we make the decision to no longer do things because of age?

As part of the mature audience, I find the daily debate simply fascinating when we are discussing words that resonate with this generation.

What is it that wires us to seek the eternal fountain of youth? Is it activity and surrounding oneself with younger folks that adds enthusiasm to life? During a recent neighborhood meeting, a community volunteer explained that FiftyForward was the antithesis to having an eternal remote control in one's hand. To illustrate the point, he read off a list of activities that sounded like a fun and very active college curriculum where one could pursue anything under the sun. Isn't it fabulous to know that in life's second chapter you can focus on what truly motivates and engages you?

Recently when a snarky comment from an "older" friend inferred, "I'm not that old yet," I immediately thought, "let me know when you are and feel free to join us to zipline, canoe, ride in a pace car or to take up a new sport, explore art, further your education, explore your roots, or write your life story."

At the end of the day, doesn't everything boil down to disposition and perception? Shouldn't it be everyone's plan to choose friends wisely, live life fully and seize each day's possibilities? There is so much in life to savor.

Susan W. Sizemore is the communications director for FiftyForward. Learn about FiftyForward's centers, programs, services and resources by visiting www.fiftyforward.org. Get social and like FiftyForward on Facebook or follow FiftyForward on Twitter.

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