Monday, January 21, 2008

No Name Calling Week!

Be on your guard this week! It’s national no name calling week. Schools will be observing this, perhaps especially, as teachers and parents alike work to help curtail growing episodes of bullying. It struck me as something to mention because of what is a growing debate in our country about what to call us Americans as we age. There is more and more resistance, especially from Baby Boomers, to eschew the moniker, “senior,” a label that became quite commonplace as the preceding generation grew older. We find more and more that even those over 65 now like the expression, “senior citizen,” less and less. Even AARP changed the reference to the acronym (American Association of Retired Persons) in its branding a few years ago, preferring now to use only the acronym.

“Elder,” still preferred in many cultures, comes from Middle English, 12th century references to those with authority by virtue of age and experience. American Indian practices, Asian and Latin cultures, even some European traditions, reserve a place of honor for those who are older, deferring to their wisdom and life experience. Some religious denominations designate leadership roles through the title.

We know all too well in our American culture, however, that growing older does not automatically take with it the respect and admiration of the culture at large. The changing demographics offer an opportunity to reflect, though, on what changes in the culture as 77 million people approach the next chapter of life. Three million Baby Boomers are turning 62 this year! You’ve no doubt seen the Ameritrade commercial featuring Dennis Hopper, bad boy Boomer turned sage, reminded us all that retirement needs a plan. And just count how many “jingles” are songs from the 60s and 70s, meant to tap into the auditory memories of Boomers everywhere.

As we network with other business professionals, we observe many who work for companies that are attempting to work out the language, the “name calling” to target their services to the aging population. How to do this without offense? How to be clear that what they have is what people over 50 need and want? How to communicate, especially with a generation proud of its unique place in American culture, that believes it will age differently, that will, in many ways, age differently?

What do you think about all fuss with name calling? Will Boomers always be Boomers? If not “Seniors,” what? Tell us your ideas and weigh in on this cultural debate.

If this topic does not excite you, then hold on for National Puzzle Day on January 29. We have one that will drive you mad while it delights. Check out Scrambles, the deceptively “simple” puzzle that challenges your brain and your patience perhaps. If you are in Metro Denver, stop by and take the Scrambles challenge. If you can complete the puzzle in five minutes you get one for free!

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