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Abstract

The age-related labels third age, elderly, 50+, senior, and retired were evaluated by a 40+ sample. Results of a qualitative and quantitative study showed that the labels third age and elderly evoked predominantly negative associations, and the evaluations of the latter three age-related labels were generally positive. Cognitive age did not appear to add explanatory power, but group membership did (being retired or not, perceiving oneself as a senior or not). Moreover, a significant interaction effect between group membership and age emerged. When people did not belong or did not perceive themselves to belong to a given age group, the evaluation of the related label became more negative when the respondents approached the age to be eligible for group membership. After becoming or accepting to become part of the group, evaluations of the label increased again. On the basis of these results, an alternative-stage model is proposed: status irrelevance, status rejection, status acceptance, and status championship. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.