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Boomers Hate Being Called a Senior

A month ago, the front page story of the Omaha World Herald was titled: “Baby Boomers cringe at ‘senior’ label.”

Aging baby boomers do not think of themselves as old and definitely do not want to be labeled with any word that sounds old. Putting the words boomer and senior in the same sentence just doesn’t mix well.

Recognizing this, a group of retirement communities in Omaha is actually changing their name from Immanuel Senior Living to Immanuel Communities. And another national group suggests that we consider renaming the senior citizen activity centers in our cities from “senior centers” to “boomer café’s” or “boomer centers.”

So, if this discussion is making headlines in local newspapers across the country, shouldn’t we in the church be paying attention?

I have heard many times from church leaders, “I just can’t get the 60 year olds to come to our senior adult activity!” Well, for starters, boomers don’t like to be called seniors. And, like it or not, the terminology we use is important. Language can either attract people or turn people away.

That of course begs the question – what should we call this group of new-olds? The encore generation is a name I like and is certainly gaining speed in popularity and recognition. Also, just the term ‘boomers’ seems to be acceptable…at least for now.

But most important, we need to constantly remind ourselves that people are people. Every individual is unique and very few of us like to be labeled. In fact, the marketing tagline for Immanuel Communities is “Uniquely Your Own.”

This reminds me of a cartoon I saw a long time ago, where a social worker was asking questions of a very old man. She said, “And what would you like to be called…old geezer?, golden ager?, senior citizen?” He thought for a long moment and said, “How about Tom. I’ll just go by my name, Tom.”

What names or titles for ministry with baby boomers and the new-old are you finding to be effective? Let’s hear your ideas.

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  • June 5, 2010 6:41 pmPosted 13 years ago
    Robert W Chism

    The following three churches market to Boomers without attaching a specific age group:

    Beaverton Foursquare Church (
    13565 SW Walker Rd, Beaverton, OR 97005 (503) 644-9104
    Mike Kinsman
    Pastoral Services: Encore! (The Bridge & Prime Timers)
    (503) 644-9104 x133

    Calvary Assembly Church (
    1199 Clay Street, Winter Park, FL 32789 (407) 644-1199
    Mike Martin
    A.R.K. (Acts of Random Kindness), Sonlighters Ministries

    Cedar Mills Bible Church (
    12208 NW Cornell Road, Portland, Oregon 97229 (503) 644-3156
    Dave McElheran
    Pastor to Seniors and Pastoral Care (Ambassadors & Encore)

    Judy and Wes Wick, co-founders of YES (Young Enough to Serve) were quite skillful in naming their organization. Note strategic placement of young in the name. In addition, YES focuses on intergenerational membership which is split between those below 50 and above 50. They even have a board member who is barely in her twenties.

    Among YES ministries which Boomers tend to identify include: Ageless Non Denominational Evangelism and Global Missions, Positive Longevity Attitude, Intergenerational Sensitivity plus Generosity and Benevolent Life Style.

    Forerunners of Faith, a VCG ministry, located in Gurnee, Illinois, USA has observed these individual churches; YES; Leona Bergstrom, Co-Director Converge Worldwide 2nd 1/2 for Him; Ward Tanneberg, Executive Director CASA Network (CN); Dr. Richard Gentzler, director of the Center on Aging & Older Adult Ministries; author Dr Amy Hanson, Baby Boomer and Beyond; author Peter Menconi, The Intergenerational Church; Senior Pastor Bill Ankerberg, Whittier Area Community Church, Whittier, California, USA; and Senior Pastor Joe Boerman, Immanuel Church, Gurnee, Illinois, USA

    Though Forerunners of Faith favors Intergenerational Midlife and Beyond or Second Half Ministry
    as a group name, Forerunners has concluded that their first step needs to gain church leadership share mind to a vision of Midlife and Beyond or Second Half Ministry. Including but not limited to among other things:
    (1) Having a recognized author and speaker on location to explore the topic;
    (2) Selling and gifting the author’s book to the members to increase awareness;
    (3) Small group study of Baby Boomer and Beyond for greater understanding;
    (4) Similarly, The Intergenerational Church for better generational dynamics;
    (5) Conducting three focus groups with a recognized consultant as the group’s leader;
    (6) Facilitating CN membership as well as senior pastor ILT Conference attendance; et al.

    Forerunners has further concluded that rather than creating multiple older adult ministry positions
    for each generation, a possible more practical and economical approach would be to encourage continued staff and congregational education and training of the six generations in the church today in order to create better respect for the differences and benefit from doing church together.

    The point to these remarks can best be distilled into as each generation is different, so too each older adult is different. It is critical to understand that there is no one solution that fits all. Equally critical to understand is that each congregation needs to (1) survey its demographics (2) develop its vision; (3) find its leader who will address the differences which will allow each in our own unique time to serve and to be served.

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    May 30, 2014 5:23 pmPosted 9 years ago
    Marlane Crowell

    Interested in future info.

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    March 3, 2016 4:41 pmPosted 8 years ago
    Daniel Landau

    Real Seniors set the bottom limit of age entry into their group at a number they themselves don’t mind hearing. Eg 120 year olds would not mind being called “60”, so they set “60” as the entry into their club.

    Keep this in mind: “there may be a lot of seconds in a day but its NOT a lot of time”. Same ideas for years.

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    December 17, 2018 9:12 pmPosted 5 years ago
    Marla Lopez

    #VIPsnotseniors. VIPs would be a great replacement name for seniors. Let’s start the movement. I’m happy to help!!!

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    May 28, 2020 5:02 amPosted 3 years ago
    Gardner Andrew

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