Inclusive language: Age

Age may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to discriminating against others. Yet, ageism is a real problem, affecting many people worldwide. In this article, we’ll explain ageism and how you can combat it by using more inclusive language in your content.

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What is ageism?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ageism is a broad category that “refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.” Stereotyping and having prejudices based on age can affect both younger and older people. However, it is more frequently addressed when it concerns older adults.

Ageism is everywhere, from institutions to social relationships and our views towards ourselves. As such, it may be challenging to identify in everyday language. But, when writing online content, it is helpful to develop a sensitivity toward it, so you can be sure that your content is not offensive to any groups.

(Non)Inclusive language and ageism

If your content unintentionally contains words that may be offensive to some audience members, you risk alienating them. By learning to avoid potentially harmful language around age, you reduce that risk. Here is what you can do.

Describing older adults

Avoid potentially harmful language when describing older adults (unless you know the person(s) you are referring to prefer the terminology for themselves). Here are some examples.

  • Non-inclusive: the aging, aging dependants, the aged, elderly, or seniors.
  • Inclusive: older people, older adults, older patients, and older individuals.

Using stigmatizing words

Avoid terms that have no agreed-upon meaning and contribute to stigma. Consider these examples.

  • Non-inclusive: senile or senility.
  • Inclusive: dementia (use it when referencing the condition causing dementia, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease). 

Patronizing language

Avoid appearing as if you are speaking down to your younger audiences. For instance, take a look at these examples:

  • Non-inclusive: kid, kiddo, boy, and girl.
  • Inclusive: younger people or individuals.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about this topic, we suggest starting with the following resources:

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