There are many terms used for people who are in the 60-ish plus age category. Those who move from that undefined "middle age" into the next age category don't want to be labeled with a negative term that makes them sound "old". Sometimes I wonder when did "old" become a bad word? The majority of today's older people are remaining quite active and longevity is challenging our beliefs about the ways in which we refer to our older population. Words such as elderly, seniors and senior citizens often conjure up negative connotations. Political correctness, and acceptable language is helping to eradicate ageism and help people in their later years (and others) look at their stage of life in a positive light. Here's what I've found in my research in terms of language:
Thumbs down to:
Seniors (now considered passé to the Baby Boomers)
Elderly (associated with the term geriatric or those who live with senility)
Thumbs up to:
Third age (the age of personal fulfillment termed by the late Peter Laslett)
Elders (Very different from elderly. Adopted from the First Nations community in Canada. Elders are revered for their wisdom and life experience and the title Elder is a compliment in First Nations communities)
Active Older Adults
Baby Boomers or Boomers (those born between the years 1946-1964)
Retirees (if in fact they are retired)
A person aged _______ (fill in the blank with their age with no other label)
People aged _______ (fill in the bland with an age-range with no other label)
Pensioners (mainly a U.K. term)
If you're really struggling :)
Old = Chronologically gifted or experientially advanced
Old person = Gerontologically advanced
Just as we would call someone a child, a teenager, or an adult, I think it's most acceptable to use the term "older adult" when speaking about those who are in the 60-ish plus age category. Middle age can span many years, and that magical time when one becomes an older adult is quite individual and undefined. In Canada, one receives the "Old Age" Pension when they are 65. Is this the magical age then? Not world-wide that's for sure. There is a more definitive breakdown from there - the young-old, the old-old, very old and the oldest old.
Remember the old saying, "To Me, Old Age is Always 15 Years Older Than I Am", Bernard M. Baruch.
Whatever term you decide to use is okay as long as you do it with good intentions in mind. It is never okay to refer to older adults in a negative manner as this perpetuates ageism and puts our views of aging in a negative light.