Last week I wrote about the high share of baby boomers who are single and not parents, and asked those of you who fit that description to let me know how you feel about labels like "elder orphans" or "solo agers."
What a genius idea: a reader-generated column that writes itself! Here's a sampling of your response:
• Deb Wicks: "I was surprised by these negative labels. Sounds like they came out of the Stone Age. My life is by design — and at a stressless, healthy 61, retired for 10 years from an exciting career, now have an active life with serious hobbies, living in paradise, without needy children — I wouldn’t have done it any other way. My friends, with and without children/husbands, marvel that I made this choice and border on jealous. Not sure how to boil this down to a more accurate description — 'unburdened and youthful', 'growing and ageless', 'carefree and happy' — you pick."
• Tracie Parrott: "I find it fascinating that people think there needs to be a label for single, childless boomers at all. I am 60 and single, though I am a parent. ... By the time we need to be taken care of by others, whether family or at an assisted living facility, even those who were married may have lost a spouse, and our children are likely living in other parts of the country and probably don't have the ability care for us anyway. As we reach our eighth decade, many of us who were at one time 'married with children' are now living essentially 'single and childless' even if, technically, we aren't. Since this probably represents the majority of those who have been blessed to live a good and long life, I'm not sure a label is necessary."
• Jean Seneway: "Was appalled when I read the Sunday article referencing 'elder orphans.' Loathsome and condescending are both appropriate descriptives for this label. 'Solo ager?' Why do I need to be pigeonholed into a label? I'm healthy, thriving, balanced, self-reliant; my only real 'label' is my name."
•John Yoder: "Thanks for calling out the obvious. The word 'orphan' has a distinctly negative tone. I'm not sure I love 'solo-agers,' but it beats the alternative hands down."
• Sue Anderson: "'Solo agers' just does not roll off your tongue very well. (Plus it feels related to a young Harrison Ford in 'Star Wars.') I think 'elder orphans' is just fine, and since we did not have children we actually may have plenty of $$$$ to get a taxi from the ER, buy a funeral policy, and put a deposit on a nursing home."
• Jeannette Paladino: "I agree 'solo agers' is a better term for older folks like me. I’m a widow without children. However, another problem for elders alone is that they might have children but they live too far away to help, don’t have the financial resources to help or don’t want to help. ... Those with unhelpful children can hardly be called orphans."
• Mary Maldonado: "For years I have referred to myself as 'child free.' The term 'solo ager' is probably more PC. We have not failed; it's just the way life has worked out and it is fine!"
• Anonymous: "I'm 66 and never had kids and couldn't be happier!! My label would be 'BRILLIANT.' I ain't raisin' nothin' I can't eat!!!!"
Well, OK, then. What about "sole survivors?" Just a thought.
Barbara Peters Smith is the aging reporter for the Herald-Tribune, and the editor of Health+Fitness. Call her at 941-361-4936 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @BarbaraPSmith.