I noticed that in my essay I have used the word "people" more than 10 times. I want to cut it down. For example I decided to change the following sentence:

Old people may run out of money in their pension pots and thus have to depend on their families for financial support.

to this sentence:

The old may run out of money in their pension pots and thus have to depend on their families for financial support.

Could you please tell me if it is correct to say so?

I would appreciate if you give me other alternatives to remove the world "people", as much as possible.

  • 5
    I wouldn't say it's wrong. It's understandable. However, "The elderly" would be better, IMHO. It's often used to mean older people (collectively).
    – Billy Kerr
    May 25, 2021 at 13:40
  • 1
    pensioners is another term. The old is really, really bad usage, unless you are "being literary". The funny, the odd and the old.
    – Lambie
    May 25, 2021 at 14:49
  • 1
    Note that there is a trend in academic writing to add the word "people"—"elderly people", "disabled people"—to use more respectful descriptions. This is the case at major journal publishers such as Springer/Nature and Elsevier, for example. May 25, 2021 at 16:58
  • 1
    Another term that is sometimes used in the US is “seniors” or “senior citizens”. For example “Multiple HHS agencies provide programs that improve the well-being of seniors.”
    – ColleenV
    May 26, 2021 at 1:50

2 Answers 2


"The old" is not particularly idiomatic. "The elderly" is quite commonly used, and occasionally "the aged" (this is a little old-fashioned).

You can also refer to people in age brackets, such as "the over-60s", or "the over-75s".

In British English, retired people are sometimes referred to as "pensioners", because they are of 'pensionable age'. The initialism "OAPs" (old age pensioners) is also commonly used.

Strangely, "the old and infirm" has been used historically, but a look at Google books shows this has decreased in usage over the years and "elderly and infirm" has risen to a comparable level of use.

  • 2
    It can be idiomatic. The good, the bad and the ugly. The old, the the infirm and the pitiful.
    – Lambie
    May 25, 2021 at 14:50

I'd just like to add that the phrase "the old" is not technically incorrect and hence you can get away with using it. However in the example sentence you provided, "the elderly" sounds the best. In terms of idiomaticity,

"the elderly" > "the old" > "the aged"

  • 2
    +1 for "idiomaticity". I'm now looking for an excuse to be politically correct and use the phrase "idiomatizationally challenged" in an answer...
    – alephzero
    May 26, 2021 at 1:04

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