2022 was the year I made myself a promise to step out of my comfort zone and do things that made me uncomfortable, in order to engender personal growth. I have shared different parts of my personality with you so that I could not only fulfill my promise to myself, but also open myself up to making new connections within our wonderful midlife community. I have met people from all over the world who are here, like me, to leave their legacy. I have connected with so many amazing people and have been inspired, moved, and touched by the stories that have been shared, the styles that have been worn, and learning about everyone’s goals and dreams for the future. I am thankful for those who have shared my journey, applauded my efforts, and expressed how I have been an inspiration.
SO-when I was asked to participate in a project by someone I trust and respect to showcase my talents and be able to share my thoughts about my midlife journey, I was torn.
I will explain.
What's a "Senior" Anyway?
First, I will ask you a question. One that I've asked many people of ALL ages and genders. What is your definition of “senior?" The legal definition is as follows: An elderly person, usually more than sixty or sixty-five years of age.
People in the United States who are more than sixty years of age are commonly referred to as senior citizens or seniors. These terms refer to people whose stage in life is generally called "old age," though there is no precise way to identify the final stage of a normal lifespan. People are said to be senior citizens when they reach the age of sixty or sixty-five because those are the ages at which most people retire from the workforce. This was enacted in the Federal Employment Act of 1967.
Whaaat?!?! I’m being pigeonholed into a stereotype from 1967?
It's interesting that there were several people in their 30s who immediately responded with this data. I was saddened by this, but at the same time, it reinforced how important the work I and so many other midlife people are doing. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us!
Now, back to the project I mentioned earlier. The setting was a showcase for women sixty and beyond. The supposed goal of this production was to give younger women inspiration about what aging vibrantly could look like. We were asked to showcase our talents, express our philosophy of life, and answer questions from esteemed members of the community about ourselves and our core philosophies, values, and how we live our lives.
The organizers of this event had their hearts in the right place. There's no doubt there. BUT- soon after I agreed to participate thinking that it would be a unique experience, I did not feel aligned with the process. As the journey continued, I found myself frustrated and out of place.
It was apparent that I was too unique. Remember that elementary school game of finding the thing that did not belong? Yes, that was me. This became obvious during the talent portion of the showcase. To demonstrate their talents, the other participants did simple dances (all of them). I on the other hand, showed off my boxing routine (did you expect anything else?).
While there's nothing inherently wrong with their choice, this was not representative of so many of the women I know, and it was very limiting in my personal opinion; it bought right into the stereotype of what being a “senior” allows us to do with our bodies (not much).
I then took the opportunity to share my platform about changing the narrative about aging from the archaic thinking that’s been drilled into our heads about how we SHOULD age. This was not well received, as I was not seeing myself as a SENIOR. In fact, to my dismay, the responses to the questions I was asked about core values and philosophies did not get released to the public at all!
The other women, lovely though they were, clearly had moved on to the “retired” stage of life-the exact antithesis of where I’m at.
Needless to say, I did not have a positive experience. I will admit that it took me several days to process and internalize this to find out WHY I had done it at all. I was disappointed and, quite frankly, angry, as I felt my time had been wasted. Then it happened; the WHY became apparent to me after a conversation with someone who is also working hard to normalize aging. I realized this was part of my purpose- to stop propagating the idea, the myth, of what we are supposed to be like, act like, dress like, and work out like at this time in our lives.
It's time to retire the word "senior" when describing people in midlife. At the very minimum, it's time we adjust the qualifications for what a "senior" is.
Because the word "senior", along with all the connotations that come with it, is the exact opposite of what I stand for as a pro-aging lifestyle model, influencer, and fitness enthusiast. It's everything I'm working towards changing.
In my opinion, a better option would have been to fill the showcase with women like me: midlife women who are still as vibrant as ever when it comes to their bodies and whose souls hunger for adventure. Those of us who are discovering new purposes in our lives. Those who understand it’s never too late and you’re never too old to chase another goal and dream another dream.
Get rid of that "senior" label. 'Cause guess what? I'm no senior.
This word has certain characteristics attached to it that I just loathe with every fiber of my being. A "senior" citizen is frail. This person is meek. Senior citizens do not dress and live the way they want to, because society has told them they're not able to do those things anymore. Do "seniors" box? No. Do "seniors" live in the fast lane? The stereotype, sadly, says no.
But I do. As do friends of mine who are also in midlife. We could technically be classified as "seniors", as I was in the aforementioned showcase. But when you consider the connotation of that word, we are anything but.
"Midlife" is a far better word to describe the stage of life people like me are in. I understand that the term "senior" has been used for a long time, and that women my age looked far different back then. But times have changed, and so too should the verbiage we use to describe people. Have you ever seen the meme showing The Golden Girls side by side with the women from the Sex and the City reboot? They're of similar age! WE HAVE CHANGED!
Men and women in midlife have plenty of energy, strength, and will power left in the tank, and should not be assigned a label that represents the antithesis of all those things. It's time for "senior" to be retired once and for all.