Is it Time to Retire ‘The Elderly’?

By This Age Thing

At This Age Thing, we often encounter the term “the elderly” being used to describe those in later life, despite the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of Older Persons rejecting the term in 1995.  From news articles to conversations we can’t seem to shake this term. 

So, is it finally time to retire ‘the elderly’ and embrace more age inclusive language?

What do people think?

We asked if This Age Thing users agree that it’s time to truly retire this term on our website and social media channels and found that while 72% agreed that the term should be retired, 13% reported not being bothered either way, while 5% of voters identified with the term and reported using it to describe themselves, or even seeing it as a positive word.  

“Elderly is directly proportional to more experiences and stories a person has developed through years so I view it as a positive terminology.” – Poll Respondent 

“‘Elderly’ is too broad brushed with a negative undertone” – Poll Respondent 

“There is a kind of massive reject on this term. But what the good term could be? Even the concerned people don’t know. Maybe the good way of doing thing is not giving them a nickname at all!” – Poll Respondent 

So are there better ways of describing our future selves?

A recent article on ageist language describes the importance of adopting age-inclusive language as a tool for countering ageism.  

“The simple truth is that if we live long enough, we all become older adults. We are each essentially an older person “in training.” Age is part of our social identity, and no one wishes to be diminished based on this characteristic. Countering ageism begins by understanding and adopting the age-inclusive language.”  – Deborah Dow, Countering Ageism: Are You Using Age-inclusive Language? May 2023 

In line with the findings of the article, which identifies ‘people in later life’, ‘older people’, and ‘older adult’ as the most acceptable language to describe our future selves, respondents to our poll overwhelmingly voted for the term “older person” as the preferred term.  Other terms proposed by our respondents included older adult, elder, seasoned and senior.  

How would you describe your future self?  Have your say in the comments below! 

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