Massachusetts is changing the name of its Executive Office for Elder Affairs after learning that aging adults don’t connect with the term “elder.”

While conducting research for a new name through focus groups, surveys, and conversations with older adults, caregivers, service providers, and advocacy organizations, the state said it heard that older adults often associate the term elder with someone who is at the end of their life.

Instead, residents prefer neutral terms such as “aging” and “older people,” according to a media release. Additionally, research showed older adults deeply value the ability to maintain their independence through the aging journey. From these findings, the agency developed a new name to more accurately reflect its programs and services, and better connect with eligible adults.

The new name, Executive Office of Aging & Independence, better represents the values of older adults in Massachusetts and reflects the agency’s ongoing efforts to expand its reach and ensure older people throughout Massachusetts can access needed information, services, and support through every stage of aging, the office said in its release.

The timing of the name change was chosen to be part of the celebration of Older Americans Month in May.

“The Executive Office of Elder Affairs was established more than 50 years ago and was one of the nation’s first state agencies dedicated to addressing the needs of older people,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Today, the agency has evolved to offer programs and services that support 1.7 million older residents and nearly 1 million family caregivers. Our administration is committed to meeting the changing needs of today’s older adults, and I am thrilled that this name change better reflects those that we serve.”

In addition, legislation replaces outdated language across state statutes, such as “elder,” “elderly person(s),” and “handicapped” with “older adult(s)” and “adult with a disability.” The new legislation also incorporates gender-neutral language.

“Our administration is committed to inclusivity and updating terminology to better reflect and respect our residents,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “In renaming the agency to the Executive Office of Aging & Independence, we recognize that everyone deserves to be able to age on their own terms.”

Modernizing the agency’s name is intended to reduce stigma around growing older, to normalize aging as a natural process, and to emphasize that older people value independence and self-determination.

To usher in a new, more expansive, model for older adults aging in community, the agency also unveiled a new mission, vision, and tagline:

  • Mission: Together, we support aging adults to live and thrive safely and independently – how and where they want.
  • Vision: We envision a state in which every person has the tools, resources, and support they need to fully embrace the aging experience.
  • Tagline: Your partners in aging.