Avoid vague terms such as babies, school-aged children, or teenagers, without first defining them. For example, “this study enrolled two-week old newborns,” “participants included infants ages 5 months to 1 year,” or “this study involved children ages 6-12 years.” When possible, use a specific age or age range.

Age range designations vary among organizations (American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, etc.), so ask for specifics and definitions if a general term like adolescents is used.

Older adults vs. the elderly

Use older adults, people over age X, or people age X to Y instead of the aged, elders, the elderly, or senior citizens. The word adult affirms agency and personhood, as does person-first language. When possible, use a specific age or age range. The only exception to this rule is when referencing Tribes/American Indian/Alaska Natives, for which the term elders may be preferred and culturally appropriate.

The National Institute on Aging generally describes older adults as people age 65 or older, however, definitions of older adulthood vary. When an official or organization uses one of these terms, ask for specifics.

This page last reviewed on January 17, 2024