It's just a word, really, but it conjures up all kinds of stereotypes and not-so-pleasant images: "Elderly."
But what it meant to the Greatest Generation doesn't hold for their offspring, the baby boomers.
And they are the first to tell you that.
"Most of us hear the word and think of our parents in wheelchairs," said Marcella Lorfing, who teaches a memoir writing workshop at the Davis Art Center in California. "Now that was elderly."
After a recent Sacramento Bee story described a 60-year-old woman as elderly, one 60-year-old reader called to complain. "What's up with you guys," she asked, "don't you know that's just plain wrong?"
And the statistics, not to mention a cultural shift in attitude in how aging is viewed, back her up.
Those in the 60-and-older crowd are living longer and healthier lives than their parents by adhering to today's doctrines of diet and keeping the mind and body active.
So what is the new elderly?
The consensus seems to be that 60 is the new 40. Or at least a 40 with far different pressures and responsibilities. If not retired, then working with less pressure. The kids are grown and gone. And there's just more time to do fun stuff.
There is no more irony in the Golden Years. They are plenty golden for more and more people.
New notions of what constitutes the elderly focus more on age ranges in the 80s and 90s. Yet even then, it's relative.
Several members of Lorfing's class gave this definition: Whatever your age, be it 55 or 85, add 15 and that's old. And don't forget to adjust that number yearly.
Proof that people are living longer and enjoying extended active years is in the numbers provided by the California Department of Aging.
In California, the elderly age group (defined by the department as those 60 and older) is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population between 1990 and 2020, according to the department's Web site.
So baby boomers are still booming, and the projections look good.
"We're all living longer. Seniors are healthy, they're working longer," said Pat McVicar, assistant director with the local Area Agency on Aging in California. "Most of the time, they don't consider themselves as seniors."
Bag the "elderly" tag, she said - the preferred terminology these days is "seniors" or "older adults."Like other experts, McVicar attributes the extended longevity to better knowledge and acceptance of the role of a proper diet and regular exercise.
And, perhaps most important of all, the wonders of life-prolonging and life-enhancing modern medicine that weren't available to earlier generations.
The Area Agency on Aging, which provides mental health and legal services, spends more of its budget on those 75 and older, its prime target population. Less is allocated for those in their 60s.
The evidence suggests that people not only are living longer but are staying young longer.
Lorfing and her writing class describe their retirement years as their second chance to do what they couldn't do when they were tied to jobs. They now find new meaning in new activities.
And at their workshop meetings, where the students are anywhere from their 60s to their 90s, it's a firing range of opinions.
"Being exposed to and finding something new to do keeps me going, and it's therapeutic," said Lorfing. "That's true for us all, any seniors."
Ernest Takahashi, 63, is a Sacramento optometrist who in his spare time runs, and runs far. He recently ran in the Cowtown Marathon, completing those 26.2 fun miles in 3 hours, 29 minutes.
"Age is relative," said Takahashi. "When I was younger, I used to think that 50 was really old, but now, I'm physically fit and doing fine."
He said he owes his health to eating right and exercise. He runs between two and 50 miles on a given day and hasn't missed a day in 20 years.
"I've found that running is a good way to keep weight off and release stress," he said.
"It's never too late for anyone to start doing something to keep fit ... and for me, it's still a great feeling when I'm in a race and I see someone younger than me and I think, 'I can pass them.' "
Takahashi is one of many active seniors in the Sacramento area.
The Davis program taught by Lorfing, for example, is so popular that it is at capacity. It is connected with the nationwide Osher Lifelong Learning program and UC Davis.
The program, according to Lorfing, is beyond "learning how to knit." Instead, the program offers "intellectual entertainment."
Lorfing is retired from a career in teaching and writing and now helps older adults to write part of their life stories.
Barbara Dendy was writing about the Elvis concert she missed in her memoir, titled "Still Wishing for Elvis." Larry Rappaport was expanding on his travels as a scientist in India in his "I Said 'Yes!' He Said 'No!'"
"I interact with people in their 80s and 90s, and they are active and their minds are alert," said Lorfing. "I'm pushing 70 myself, and when I think of my mother in her 70s, she was on her deathbed."
The classes have what Lorfing calls a "college feel." Everyone is around the same age and shares a connectedness about their past. It makes for a good setting to shoot the bull.
"The word 'elderly' has such a stigma," said Lorfing. "When I think of seniors ... I want to tell them to get up and go out" if they are healthy.
Chris Gray, 66, of Woodland is one of Lorfing's students. He is retired and wanted to make sure he recorded some of his family history.
He also wanted to share his story of what it was like growing up in Marysville during the '40s and '50s as well as experiencing San Francisco's Haight Ashbury in the '60s.
In his free time, he drives the Community Care Car in Woodland, helping seniors who are not able to drive.
He said he doesn't feel his age nor does he look at his peers and think of them as "old."
"It's all in the eye of the beholder," Gray said. "And to me, this is the prime of life."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun