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Deb Peterson

What to Call Senior Citizens (ugh) Who Never Stop Learning?

By July 26, 2008

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The term senior citizen is becoming more and more offensive to the aging population, especially to baby boomers who consider themselves lifelong learners. Most of us have already dropped the citizen part, but even senior sounds older than we feel.

Yesterday in the news, I saw that SUNY Oswego, in Syracuse, NY, changed the name of their learning division from the Division of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions to the Division of Extended Learning. We seem to be searching for new terms regarding learning and older students.

A group of my friends recently discussed this and came up with a few options. What's your opinion? Take the poll, and let me know in a comment if you've got an idea that's not listed.


July 26, 2008 at 9:32 am
(1) Connie G. says:

I like life-long learners. That is definitely what I consider myself. The day I stop seeking knowledge will be a sad day indeed!

July 26, 2008 at 9:37 am
(2) Marcia Purse says:

How about “[returning] students over age 30 [40, 50]“? “Returning” depends on the context. Accurate and non-stigmatizing.

“Senior” anything should only be applied to the parents of the baby boomers! Except, of course, when it comes to senior citizen discounts :)

July 26, 2008 at 9:59 am
(3) Susan says:

Why do we have to call them anything at all? Categorizing learners is unnecessary. Reminds me of when my mother-in-law started calling us her “middle-aged” children when we turned forty. Ugh.


July 26, 2008 at 10:30 am
(4) Barb Rolek says:

They should be called students. Nothing further is required.

July 26, 2008 at 10:53 am
(5) Nancy says:

I’ve seen “lifelong learners” in many college catalogs and on websites. I usually call myself a “perpetual student,” but I like the alliterative effect of “lifelong learner” better.

Susan and Barb have a good point, though. I think many mature learners would just as soon not be categorized at all.

July 26, 2008 at 11:07 am
(6) Susan Adcox says:

When I went back to school at a somewhat advanced age, we called ourselves the menopausal scholars, because we kicked the traditional students’ rears in the classroom! I think ageless learners and lifelong learners don’t really work–they are too euphemistic to mean anything. Yes, we should all be lifelong learners, but we don’t have to attend class to achieve that. So why not just say non-traditional students and be done with it.

July 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm
(7) Franny Syufy says:

I fall into Marcia’s “parent of baby boomers” category, and I prefer “lifelong learners.”

Not a day passes that I don’t learn something new, or a whole lot of new stuff. I’ve always been a firm believer that an active mind is the elixir of life itself.

July 26, 2008 at 4:58 pm
(8) Bonny says:

I like lifelong learners, but I’ve used that term to describe myself since I finished high school.

Frankly, I can’t wait to be old ‘enough’ (whatever age that ends up being) to take University level courses where all I’m paying for is the materials. Here in Canada, most people over the age of 60 or 65 can audit University classes for free or almost free.

July 26, 2008 at 6:30 pm
(9) wb says:

I don’t know. Lifelong learners doesn’t cover those who really let things slide for decades :) We need a new acronym. How about EE – esteemed elders? But then the electrical engineers may protest.

July 27, 2008 at 8:51 am
(10) Susan says:

Super Seniors? (That used to be the term for kids left behind/who couldn’t manage to graduate with their class. Maybe this would take the stigma away!)

July 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm
(11) Jan Valdez says:

I think you need more choices. One comment suggested “Returning Student” I wonder how many votes that choice would get. I would vote for it.

July 30, 2008 at 4:17 am
(12) Ruth says:

Well, I’m sick of the term “learners”! What happened to students, or even scholars? I think I’m a lifelong scholar. I don’t just learn from classes, and the “scholar” bit means I like to be reflexive too…….

July 30, 2008 at 7:30 am
(13) Pat Mc Nally says:

When I stop learning I will not be here on the earth. Past to the higher life where hopefully I will go on learning. Keep one young

July 31, 2008 at 2:26 am
(14) Sukhmandir Kaur says:

I “love life long learners”!!! Couldn’t have said it better.

August 5, 2008 at 10:44 am
(15) Rama Para says:

The “yearning” to learn something new is the hallmark of a life long learner. The yearning never stops.

May 8, 2009 at 3:20 pm
(16) money says:

what is mortgage? :)

June 4, 2010 at 7:11 pm
(17) jill says:

Silver Students

June 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm
(18) Deb Peterson says:

Ooh, I love that!

June 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm
(19) Joseph Dabon says:

I like life-long learners. It drives home the point that learning is a life-long quest and that we should not be relegated to some corner of society where we are left to be forgotten and rot. Regardless of age, anybody can still be useful to society if only one wants to.

December 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm
(20) muskegon insurance says:

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July 8, 2011 at 5:00 pm
(21) Flash says:

If we need to have a group title, I prefer the term mature adult. We don’t call those over 21 Junior Citizens.

August 8, 2011 at 10:24 am
(22) Deb Peterson says:

Good point, Flash!

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(24) synthol says:

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April 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm
(25) marcia says:

Why do Senior Citizens, AKA Silver Sages, have to be lumped together under one title?
Anyone getting an education from an institution of higher learning is called a student. Why is it important to segregate them by ages?
Psychologists tell us to accept everyone as equal. Then at every turning, there is an opportunity to differentiate people.

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