What's in a name? Recently the National Council on Aging polled its readers about their preferred term for people over age 65.

"Older adults" was the top answer, with 44 percent of the votes. "Seniors" drew 30 percent. Far behind were "elders" (6 percent) and "elderly" (2 percent). And 18 percent selected "none of the above." Similar polls elsewhere have consistently yielded similar results. When pollsters ask why respondents dislike terms such as "senior," "elder," "golden years," many people say those words have negative connotations.

But are those terms really, by definition, negative? Teens in their fourth year of high school proudly proclaim their "senior" status. "Senior" execs get the corner offices. The term "elders" was traditionally used as a title for the most powerful and wise members of a tribe. The word "golden," when not followed by "age," remains a traditional signal of excellence. It seems obvious that the perceived negativity associated with these words really stems from our culture's prejudices about age and aging. Is this negativity inevitable? What can be done about it?

"Ageism" means a bias against an individual because of his or her age. Ageism is as pernicious as racism, sexism, discrimination against people with disabilities, or any other prejudice. In the U.S. today, ageism presents itself as age discrimination against older workers and job-seekers, in negative media stereotypes about older people, coupled with a shortage of positive images and sometimes in downright hostility and resentment toward people who are dealing with mobility and cognitive challenges.

The negative impact of prejudice has been well documented. Stress, depression and a higher risk factor for heart disease, dementia and a host of other chronic illnesses go hand in hand with every type of prejudice. For seniors, negative messages can create a self-fulfilling prophecy: marginalization leads to low self-esteem and depression, which in turn accelerates withdrawal and physical decline.

The damaging effects of ageism start early. A study from Yale School of Public Health discovered that young people who harbor negative stereotypes about seniors are less likely to experience good health as they, in turn, grow older. It is worth the effort for people of every age to improve our national and global ways of thinking about seniors.

More next week.

Thanks for help

Many thanks to the volunteers from the United Methodist Church, Jamie Hitchcock and Duane Riley, who delivered Meals on Wheels last week. Are you interested in helping with Meals on Wheels? Substitute drivers are always needed. If you would like to help, call Patti at 272-3620 or 260-6282.

Scheduled activities

Thursday, the TOPS Club will meet at 9 a.m., followed by art class at 10 a.m. Gentle exercises start at 11 a.m. The Ambassador Singers practice at 1 p.m. Skip-Bo begins at 1 p.m. Yoga begins at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, the day begins with line dancing at 8:30 a.m. A nurse from St. Catherine Hospital will be here from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bridge starts at 12:45 p.m.

On Saturday, join us for coffee and doughnuts and visit with Sharon Brewer and family for the J.D. Brewer Memorial Ride-less Run to benefit Meals on Wheels. The pool room is open from 1 to 4 p.m.

Monday begins with walking at 8:30 a.m. Double pinochle begins at 12:30 p.m. Duplicate bridge starts at 7 p.m.

Tuesday has gentle exercises at 11 a.m. Pitch starts at 12:30 p.m. Bridge begins at 1:15 p.m.

June 5 has line dancing at 8:30 a.m. Library outreach is at 11:30 a.m. Pinochle starts at 12:40 p.m. The regular Wednesday night dance featuring Craig Stevens begins at 7:30 p.m. The recommended donation is $5.

Lunch menus

Lunch is served at noon.

Thursday: Beef stew or ham and beans, steamed cabbage, stewed tomatoes, plums, corn bread.

Friday: Chicken tetrazzini, peas, Italian blend vegetables, tropical fruit.

Monday: Beef enchiladas, corn, marinated tomatoes, pineapple tidbits, tortilla.

Tuesday: Pork cutlet, baked potato, Brussels sprouts, blueberry crisp, wheat roll.

June 5: Roast beef, potatoes and gravy, California blend vegetables, wheat roll, pudding.

Celebrating 35 years at the Senior Center of Finney County. Check out our website at www.seniorcenterfc.com.