A recent spate of media articles has emphasized the rapid growth of an elderly or “geriatric” cohort who are regularly referred to as ‘65 and over’. This has been labelled the “Silver Tsunami”, an unfortunate term that does not apply to most older women in North America. In my case, silver is harder and harder to detect as my hairline recedes.
The media has been ablaze for the last few weeks with the news that the number of people in the population aged ‘65 and over’ for the first time exceeded the number of youth aged less than 16 years – more evidence of the “geriatric” colouring of our society. But is it right to refer to a geriatric cohort as ’65 and over’? I would argue that this age definition is not appropriate if we define “geriatric” as being associated with frailty, cognitive impairment or dependence – with the related health care and social consequences. In fact, most 75-year-olds are vibrant, healthy, active, totally independent and cognitively intact – nothing that suggests the qualities associated with the term “geriatric”.
I move to have the notion of “middle age” increased to at least 75 years (big cheer from the Baby Boomers). Yes, there has been a definite demographic shift towards older adults in our society. Yes, the very old are growing at the fastest rate and we must prepare for the social, health, and economic consequences of such a shift. But please, let’s get with the program and stop referring to ’65 and over’ as “geriatric”. Full disclosure, I am over 65, and like my contemporaries, resent the notion that I am now “geriatric”. If we are going to refer to the demographic imperative, let’s be real and accept that “geriatric” as a societal cohort does not begin until at least age 80 and maybe even 85! ( bigger cheer from the Baby Boomers).