Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Superadults' - a Word Whose Time Has Come?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Superadults' - a Word Whose Time Has Come?

Article excerpt

As visitors approach the entrance to Drummond Castle Gardens in Crieff, Scotland, they come upon a sign listing the admission prices. For adults, tickets cost 3.50 (about $5). For those over 60, a group the castle cheerfully calls "superadults," the price drops to 2.50 ($3.50).

Superadults! Finally, a positive term for maturity. What a refreshing change from the usual staid references to "senior citizens" or, in the common British parlance, "old-age pensioners," known as OAPs.

"The word brightens everyone up when they see it," says Joe Buchanan, the castle's public-access manager, in a telephone interview. "Children come running and say, 'Granny, you're a superadult!' "

The invented word even rates a mention in a relatively new weekly feature in The Times (London), whimsically titled "Not Dead Yet." The newspaper describes it as "a column that challenges ageism and celebrates being 50-plus."

Every week, editors compile a list of quotations and comments from readers, highlighting positive and negative references to aging. It appears in a section called "Lifetime," devoted to those over 50.

Because those in this category are "largely ignored or laughed at," editors explain, the aim is to "redress the balance so the over-50s are given more credit for their contribution."

Older people, they caution, defy easy categorization and cannot be lumped into an "all-embracing grey market."

Antonia Bunch of Haddington, England, who submitted the entry about Drummond Castle Gardens, explains that as an active 60- something woman, she likes being classed as a superadult. Then she adds a plea: 'Others, please copy.' "

It is probably wishful thinking to hope that such a lighthearted term will achieve widespread acceptance. Still, the upbeat word serves as a reminder that the names we use to des-cribe people exert a powerful influence in shaping public attitudes. All the usual terms - "elderly," "seniors," "older people" - sound so, well, over-the-hill, not to mention condescending and even fragile. …

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