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    #1

    Who is older? Old people or elderly people?

    I am a bit confused about the meanings of "old" and "elderly". I know that elderly is a "polite" version of "old" but nonetheless I have the impression that "elderly" is older than "old", and that when I speak of "the elderly" or "elderly people" this is rather related to people let's say 75+ or even older, and that there is a connotation of frailty or vulnerability.
    The reasons why I am asking: we are writing a text about people who work beyond retirement - so most of them are between 65 and around 75. What are they: Old workers? Elderly workers? Or perhaps older workers? I'd have the tendency not to use elderly in this context.
    So who's the oldest of those three? I'd think that
    "older workers" are the youngest (well, least old)
    "old workers" are a bit older (and it sounds a bit impolite) and
    "elderly workers" are very old
    But I might be completely wrong - so what do native speakers say (in particular British English speakers)?
    Thanks!

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Who is older? Old people or elderly people?

    Welcome to the forums.

    This came up recently actually, and if you search for old elderly you might find the thread.

    Certainly "See that elderly gentleman over there? That's Sarah's grandfather" is more polite than "See that old guy?" Yet, when referring to someone as "elderly" you do give the impression the person is quite old, possible frail, etc. "See that older fellow?" is a more neutral (and perhaps more accurate, is Sarah's grandfather isn't in his dotage).

    You've asked an interesting question. After it came up the other day, I asked my 80-year-old father what he though. He's content knowing that he's "old" but doesn't want to be referred to as "an old guy." He doesn't want to think of himself as "elderly" which sound even older than he is.


    I think for your purpose, I'd use "older workers" and not try to use "old workers" (it does sound rude) and "elderly workers" (which makes it sounds like we're lucky they don't collapse from frailty on the job).

    Sorry, I just saw you wanted BrE. This is an AmE point of view.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Who is older? Old people or elderly people?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Sorry, I just saw you wanted BrE. This is an AmE point of view.
    This speaker of BrE agrees with you.

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    #4

    Re: Who is older? Old people or elderly people?

    Thanks to both of you, this is very helpful.
    Wasn't sure whether there might be a difference between AE and BE as my impression that the elderly are quite old came from my experience in the UK. (and, oh wonder, in Germany we only have old people and older people, but no elderly)

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