About one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by the year 2030. NPR's Ina Jaffe covers this population — and says it's often difficult to find the right words to describe it.
Golden years: This term comes from a sales pitch from the late 1950s, Jaffe explains, a time when retirement began to be idealized as this sort of perpetual vacation. It's not clear who coined it — some references cite insurance companies or Merrill Lynch Investments, while others credit Del Webb, the developer of the original retirement community Sun City, which opened in 1960.
"A tsunami is something that strikes without warning and that sucks everything out to sea — as [if] we're supposed to believe old people are going to suck all our resources out with them," Applewhite says. "In fact, the demographic wave that we're looking at is an extremely well-documented phenomenon that is washing gently across a flood plain. It's not crashing on some undefended shore without warning."
Our seniors: "Not just 'seniors' — 'our seniors,' " Jaffe says of this phrase that politicians sometimes use. "The only other group we talk about like that is children," Jaffe says, "and I find it patronizing."
Successful aging: This term is often used by people involved in the field of aging. Although it is typically considered a progressive term, it drives Jaffe "crazy," because, she says, "I think it just means there's one more opportunity for me to fail."