Retiring to the Boomer Cafe

As ‘senior centers’ prep for ‘baby boomer’ boom — what about calling them BOOMER CENTERS or BOOMER CAFES or BOOMER BISTROS?
by Dan Bloom

BOSTON,MASS(RUSHPRNEWS)10/06/2008— Hey, you aging baby boomers out there — there are 8,000 of us turning 60 every day now! — and you senior center directors around the country who manage and administer and direct senior centers in many varied regions with many varied clients:  What do you think about my wild and crazy boomer idea of renaming some senior centers in some areas of the USA and Canada as “boomer centers” or “boomer cafes” — or even in some instances as “boomer bistros”?

Examples: the Springfield Boomer Center in Springfield, Massachusetts or the San Mateo Boomer Cafe in California or Brighton Boomer Bistro in Brighton, Washington or the Toronto Boomer Cafe in Canada. What do you think?

Of course, not every senior center would change its name and only those whose directors and residents wanted to change might do so, but as more boomers come into the pipeline, some boomers might like these kinds of name changes. Not everyone. But what do you think of the idea?

A recent Associated Press story put it in black and white: “Susan Lather envisions a day when paninis and mock cocktails will take their place next to fruit cups and club sandwiches on the lunch menu at the Enfield Senior Center.

Changing food preferences are among many adjustments that senior center directors nationwide, including Lather, expect to make in the next decade as they balance the wishes of their elderly stalwarts with those of baby boomer newcomers.”

The story noted: “Some even have taken ‘senior’ out of their names, christening the facilities “community centers.” It’s a nod to boomers who acknowledge they are aging but bristle at the term “senior” and the stereotypes of fragility or dependency.”

The AP report observed that first of the 78 million boomers started receiving Social Security retirement benefits this year, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates almost 8,000 of them are turning 60 every day.

So I am proposing that some senior centers in the future call themselves “boomer centers” or “boomer cafes” or “boomer bistros”, where boomers in their 60s, 70s and 80s — even 90s — might mingle and meet and mix and mash. Of course, the name I am proposing will not be to everyone’s taste, but these terms just might become part of the aging landscape in the near future.

I asked one expert in the field what he thought of my idea, and although he welcomed my enthousiastic approach to coining new words and terms, he basically took a different approach. Among his quotes, he said:

“I am kind of for calling it what it is and not making it more confusing.
This debate will be going on long after I leave the field. My main argument is that I have not been able to identify any other word that encompasses all the generations that would utilize a ‘senior’ center. I think ‘senior; should be celebrated not eliminated.”

He added: “In every other context (senior in high school, senior in college, senior editor, seniority for earned benefits, etc.) it is respected and even revered. We are the only species that grandparents, and, although it is not quite at the degree of senior, there is also resistance to the word grandparent by boomers, too, but it is really the same issue. I think that we should resist the Manhatten Avenue influence of focusing on youth and welcome the ‘third age’ of our life and the opportunities and adaptations it brings.”

And he added: “I also think it is interesting that boomers (as a
whole) will bemoan being called ‘seniors’, but they will be the first in line to sign up for Social Security, senior discounts, AARP, etc., which are the defined thresholds to pass through as you become a senior as much as turning 21 and being able to legally drink is to becoming an adult.”

He said: “Think about it, we have a term for childhood, adulthood, but there is no such a word as seniorhood. This third chapter is a very distinct time of our lives and we should no fall into the trap of buying into the declineist theory or ageism.”

He added: “I have visited senior centers from across the country as part of our national senior center accreditation peer review process, and interacted with hundreds of senior center directors in web discussion board, and this remains a constant debate. I think that the bottom line is that it is not really what you call your center, but the quality/variety of programs and services that you offer that really makes the difference.”

He noted: “As far as focusing on the ‘boomer’ name, I feel you are only going to isolate one generation and disenfranchise other generations (the GI generation, the Silent generation and even the upcoming Gen-X generation). At the same time, I can see the point of not using words like ‘elderly’, ‘senior citizens’, and some other outdated terms, but again, I have not seen anything that has that name recognition or branding of this chapter of our lives.”

He said: “There was an attitudinal survey that was done in Indiana, and here locally, on what the older generation wanted to be called and ‘Experienced’ was the most popular choice with ‘Boomer’ and ‘Senior’ a distant second and third place. We also surveyed our participants and asked if we were to change from senior center to something else, and they told us that the most popular replacement term in their opinions was ‘Life Enrichment Center’. But I am not sure that would play out well on a national platform.”

He concluded: “I know it is a hard sell, but once boomers reach the age where senior services will become a valued commodity in their lives, and I can guarantee it will, then they will be more accepting of the word ‘senior’. Our center here in Florida has been in existence for years and we have not seen a decline in participation or revenue during that time and this year will be another record setting year.”

So dear reader, be you boomer or Generation-X, golden oldie or your grandfather’s Oldmobile, what do you think? What about calling some senior centers as “Boomer Centers” in the years to come? And Boomer Cafes? And Boomer Bistros?

All comments welcome.

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