Senior vs. Older Adult: Decoding the Terminology of Senior Living

Senior vs. Older Adult: Decoding the Terminology of Senior Living

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 



When it comes to aging, language matters. The words we use to describe and label older members of society reflect our vision of their capabilities as well as their contributions. The descriptors with which we identify our parents and grandparents says a lot not only about them, but about us too.

At Vitality Senior Living, we consider it important to use language that shows our respect and appreciation for older adults. You will note that we avoid terms such as “elderly” and “aged.” As it turns out, even the neutral-sounding term “seniors” is on the decline. One news report indicates that 50.8 percent of older adults surveyed said they were not comfortable with that term.

Senior” sounds relatively benign, but it comes with baggage, as one New York Times reporter discovered when she interviewed older people about their preferred nomenclature. “Senior citizens is a term coined in the late 1930s for people who needed a place to go, senior centers, to have a good lunch. To me, it implies somewhat impoverished older people, not the way people want to think of themselves,” said one interviewee.

In a blog post on Next Avenue, San Diego State University Professor Emeritus E. Percil Stanford notes, “The moniker ‘senior citizen’ tends to cast a shadow that suggests a ‘less-than’ quality, particularly one of dependence. The ‘older person’ should be a symbol of strength and a repository of treasured experiences and wisdom.”

What’s really the issue when we talk about language and the names we give to groups of people? It’s not just about the words but about the ideas behind the words.

An Important Part of Life’s Journey

A natural part of life, aging is an organic transformation bound into the human experience. When we label older people, it sometimes is a reflection of society’s efforts to cut off that experience. Seniors become those people, the ones we don’t want be, and so we give them a separate name, their own designation.

But language can have just the opposite effect. We can choose words that suggest joy, vitality, energy, and continued creativity. We can craft a vocabulary that embraces and celebrates the natural process of aging. For instance, aging? Perhaps we should say evolving, growing, expanding upward through life. See? There are ways to talk about ourselves that actually help us recreate ourselves.

Why does it sometimes seem difficult to find the right words? Per a respondent in the aforementioned New York Times article, “What’s going on is we have a problem with the subject itself. Everyone wants to live longer, but no one wants to be old.”

At the same time, there’s just something a little facile and silly about insisting that grandma is “89 years young!” Language must be kind and should be encouraging, but it also has to be honest.

The Rise of “Older”

That’s why terms like “older person” and “older adult” have become increasingly accepted by those who have achieved greater years. Caregivers, housing communities, and journalists are coming around to this terminology too.

First of all, it’s honest. Everyone is older than someone, by definition. It’s a factual representation of this individual’s status and achievements. Yes, longevity is an achievement. Simply making it this far merits recognition and respect. Older than I was, older than most of the people around me—older.

Terms like these also seem, so far at least, to be cheerfully free of the stigmas that accompany labels like “elderly,” with its implications of physical incapacity and mental degeneration. It would seem incongruous for your “elderly” aunt to take a spin class, but a bunch of older people getting together to pursue physical wellness and mental stimulation—that makes perfect sense!

Maybe there was a time when “elder” was uttered in tones of hushed reverence — the village elders. Not so anymore and likewise with “seniors.” How ever well intended, the term now seems to reflect dusty bingo halls. These words are antiquated. They are, to use another antiquated word, geriatric.

Older adults are the wisest living generation. They have contributed a great deal and are still learning and growing. They have gotten this far (no small trick!) and remain an important part of our families and society. When we embrace a new terminology, we make room for people to be who they are and express themselves in new and vibrant ways, unhindered by the stigma of labels that no longer apply.

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