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Age-inclusive language and content

When you write about age, avoid using stereotypes or words that may discriminate against people.

Refer to age only when necessary

A person’s age communicates the amount of years they have spent alive and has no qualitative value. It does not communicate a person’s maturity, experience, or physical or mental capability.

Unnecessary reference to age can contribute to exclusion, ageism, or discrimination.

NZ law protects against age-based discrimination.

Age — NZ Human Rights Commission

How to refer to age

If age is relevant to the context, use the correct, respectful language.

Terms such as ‘young’, ‘old’ and ‘mature’ are relative and can carry unintended or negative meaning.

A person’s age should not be confused with certain stages of life. Most stages of life — for example, completing education, beginning employment, or ending paid employment — can apply to people with a wide range of ages.

Use numerals to refer to age

If the age of a person is relevant to the context, it’s best to use numerals.

Examples

Use:

  • The person, aged 23, was at the event.
  • Children from ages 5 to 15 are welcome.
  • Survey respondents were between ages 60 and 75.

Avoid:

  • Young people are welcome.
  • Seniors are invited.

Use birth years to refer to a generation

Referring to an age group by their generation can carry unintended meaning or stereotype them. Unless the content must refer to generation, use birth years.

Examples

Use:

  • People born between 1946 and 1964.

Avoid:

  • labelling people as Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z.

Terms to use for older people

Older people are not a homogenous group. For instance, ‘people 65 and over’ is a group of unique people with different ages that can span over 30 years.

The only distinctive quality at age 65 and over is eligibility for National Superannuation.

When possible, use the numeral instead of a term — for example, ‘aged 75’ instead of ‘senior’. Many older people do not identify as senior.

Examples

Use:

  • older people.

Avoid:

  • senior people
  • old people
  • the elderly.

Terms to use for younger people

Younger people are not a homogenous group. This age group includes children and young adults.

Examples

Use:

  • young people
  • youth
  • adolescents, children or babies — when referring to specific developmental phases. Note, however, that different organisations and institutions define these terms differently.

Avoid:

  • youths — it can carry unwanted negative meaning
  • young adults or kids — unless these terms are required and defined in the content.

Terms to use for employment and retirement

There is no official retirement age in New Zealand. The age when a person completes paid work is a personal decision — and people who have stopped paid work do not necessarily share the same qualities or age group.

Examples

Use:

  • older workers
  • older employees
  • finished paid work
  • left the paid workforce.

Avoid:

  • mature workers — this can suggest that other workers are immature
  • retirees
  • retirement age
  • early retirement.

Note: Some organisations are moving towards more inclusive titles. For example, the term ‘later life’ instead of ‘retired’ was used in the strategy, “Better Later Life — He Oranga Kaumātua”.

Terms to use when referring to students’ ages

Refer to students’ academic level instead of their age. Students’ ages can vary at any level of study.

Examples

Use:

  • The students are studying for their Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees.
  • PhD candidates — to refer to PhD students.

Avoid:

  • The party was filled with university students.

Use inclusive images

Images can also reinforce negative or ageist stereotypes that devalue younger or older people. Choose images that show people completing non-stereotypical activities that reflect the real diversity of their lives and experiences.

Examples

Use:

  • an image of an older person learning to surf
  • an image of a younger person leading a meeting.

Avoid:

  • an image of an older person knitting
  • an image of a younger person using their phone.

Resources

Utility links and page information

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