Congratulations to Phil Mickelson, who on Sunday, at the age of 50, became the oldest winner of a major golf tournament by winning the PGA Championship.
Maybe 50 is old in the sports world — the Senior PGA Championship, after all, features players 50 and older. The television network airing the tournament that ended with Mickelson’s victory Sunday seemed to think that 50 is old, playing Neil Young’s “Old Man” apparently unironically at one point during the broadcast when talking about the golfer.
But Mickelson is not considered old in the overall world. I agree with one Twitter poster, who said, “…enough about the age! …Everyone acts like Phil should be on life support, carrying an oxygen tank, using a golf cart, and doctor exam every hole!!”
Maybe Lefty’s recent accomplishment will remind people that 50-year-olds still have plenty of vim and vigor. In a recent survey, people just a few years older than him provided some insights into how they wish to be perceived. The survey focused on labels, and the findings may be helpful to those working in senior living.
The Senior List asked more than 600 people aged 55 or more years how they would like to be described as part of an age group. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the wide range of ages in the group, the answers varied by age.
Of those in their 50s, 63% preferred inclusive references that slightly altered words such as “adult” to make terms such as “older adult” or “mature adult.” Such words “place seniors within adult society rather than a separate class,” the authors said. Only 9% of those in their 50s said they preferred traditional “senior” labels such as “senior citizen.” (After all, even though turning 50 makes one eligible for AARP membership, being in one’s 50s really is not that old.)
Those over the age of 80, however, preferred terms with “senior” in them (63%) rather than the inclusive options (21%) favored by those in their 50s.
“This might only suggest that we become more comfortable with ‘senior’ titles as we grow older, but popular usage reflects the same shifting dynamic,” the authors said.
Least popular among respondents of any age were potentially alienating terms such as “the elderly” or “golden agers.”
“Emphasis on lifestyle was preferred over longevity,” the authors said. “The only term that focused on status rather than age (“retiree”) performed surprisingly well. Though half of respondents were under 65, only 17% disliked the term “retiree,” suggesting that older Americans may prefer stage-of-life labels over references to lifespan.”
Looked at as a whole, “[t]he poll provided no clear-cut choice for favorite title, but clearly showed how seniors wish to be perceived: as people who happened to have lived a long time, not a separate segment of society,” the authors said.
That sounds like good advice when we’re thinking of anyone we might think of as being an older adult, golfer or not.