Results 1 to 3 of 3
  1. emka's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Germany
      • Current Location:
      • Germany

    • Join Date: Jan 2011
    • Posts: 75

    Adjective usage/Word choice: old, elderly, senior or mature

    Nobody wants to be old, so people come up with euphemisms for the inevitable. I’m aware that it’s a little bit like walking on eggshells, and there is no hard and fast definition of “old” age. But if we consider a person to be “old” and use the euphemism “elderly” (elderly lady) or “senior” (senior citizens) – is it appropriate at all to call them elderly or senior without insulting them? Is there a commonly accepted rule?

    I've always thought that “elderly” was appropriate if the person is visibly frail and/or sick (think of an old person, 80+, with a walker). If not, I would try to find a way of phrasing my sentence with “senior” (think of a white-haired old person, 70-ish, playing golf). And if the person, even if officially retired, grey and somewhat wrinkled, is clearly fit and active, I would probably resort to “mature” (think of a person skiing downhill or riding a horse).

    In other words: I would wiggle and weasel my way out of the problem. But as I work in an industry that’s selling products for the “old” age group (and I have to write in English about them), I thought I’d better get some native speakers’ advice.

    Any practical tips?

    Thank you.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 28,134

    Re: Adjective usage/Word choice: old, elderly, senior or mature

    As you say, it's a problem to avoid if we can. However, we can't, so - here's my personal opinion. I'd avoid 'old', 'elderly' and 'ag(e)ing; Even 'senior (citizens)' smacks of old age to me. 'Mature' seems as good as any for an adjective. As for a noun 'over-50s' seems acceptable. As the barrier is set at 50, when many people are still working and very active, it is a nicely inclusive term.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
    • Posts: 6,332

    Re: Adjective usage/Word choice: old, elderly, senior or mature

    Nobody wants to be old


    (1) But everyone wants to live a long time!

    (2) Here in the United States, you might not sell too many products to old people

    like me if you called us old or elderly.

    (3) On the other hand, sometimes advertisers think that we old people are stupid.

    They claim that product X is for those people in their "golden years." There's nothing

    golden about being old.

    (4) I just went to a dentist to have a tooth extracted. The dentist gave me a

    "senior discount." (I wish that it had been more than 10%!) And every month I get

    a pass for only $14 to ride the buses and subway in my city. It's called a "senior


    (5) So I agree with the teacher. Probably the terms "senior citizen" and "mature

    people" are the least offensive. In your advertisements, you might throw in the

    phrase "wise with age" in order to flatter us, even though a lot of old folks are anything

    but wise. We're just old.

    *** UPDATE ***

    I just remembered there used to be a magazine for us entitled "Senior Life."

    It has changed its title to "Fifty Plus." It thus avoids the whole problem. You might

    simply market your products to "People 50+" or "People 60+."
    Last edited by TheParser; 06-Oct-2011 at 23:27.

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] Which word choice is better, and why?
    By KatieBell in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 16-Aug-2011, 15:34
  2. word choice
    By bosun in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 24-May-2009, 18:26
  3. usage of Senior,Junior,freshman,etc...
    By Spetsnaz26 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 20-Sep-2007, 10:04
  4. word choice
    By Progress in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 25-Nov-2006, 01:15
  5. word choice
    By blacknomi in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-Oct-2004, 11:19


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts