Dictionary with the word "ageism" highlighted

The New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative and its partners are reporting on caregiving of older adults. We want to provide in-depth, nuanced and solutions-oriented reporting on this critical issue, but steering clear of ageist depictions and language requires effort. To help ourselves in doing that, and to help change the narrative on older adults, we have developed a language guide

Why is this important? An article about ageism from Washington University in St. Louis notes that in a 2019 poll, 82 percent of older adults said they had experienced “everyday ageism.” A related problem is “elderspeak,” or addressing older adults in patronizing ways. Such language choices matter because the way older people are referred to can affect the way people see them.

While there is no uniform vocabulary to avoid ageism, our guide outlines a starting point for which words to use—and which to steer clear from. 


  • crippled
  • frail
  • invalid
  • over the hill
  • senior citizen
  • elderly
  • grandfatherly

Find more in our style guide.

You can help in this effort.

We don’t have all the answers and won’t get it right every time. That’s why we need your help. We owe it to our readers to develop better ways to tell these stories and cover communities, and this guide will help.

Please, tell us what you think about our style guide. What did we get right, wrong, or leave out?