Is law firm marketing guilty of ageism?

Challenging_Ageism.PNGThe UK’s population is currently undergoing a massive shift in the average age profile. The Centre for Ageing Better reports that in less than 20 years, one in four people will be over 65. It is projected by the Office for National Statistics that in 50 years’ time there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over.

As ageing is often associated with decline and ill-health, the way people talk about older people is frequently negative and damaging. Older people are commonly portrayed as frail, vulnerable and dependent. Despite different language being used across different sectors, many narratives draw on similar stereotypes.

A style guide for challenging ageism

The Centre for Ageing Better has published a guide to support organisations in communicating about ageing and older age. ‘Challenging ageism: a guide to talking about ageing and older age’ sets out some key principles to avoid using ageist language and may be particularly useful for law firms to reference when drafting legal marketing materials.

This guide can help give law firm marketing teams the confidence to challenge ageism within the legal industry and champion representations of ageing and later life that are more positive and realistic.

Here are the key things to avoid and some ideas for preferred language you can use:

Words and phrases to avoid


Associations with frailty, vulnerability and dependency: ‘aged’, ‘geriatric’, ‘senile’, ‘fossils’

Embrace realistic and varied depictions of ageing.

Generalisations: they/ them

Always refer to people by their names.

Old person/ people, Old Age Pensioner (OAP), Elderly, Senior Citizens

Older adult(s), Older person/ people, People in later life

Jokes clichés and phrases: ‘dinosaur’, ‘over the hill’, ‘teaching an old dog new tricks’, or ‘teaching grandma to

suck eggs’

Talk affirmatively about longer and healthier lives and ageing as an opportunity for everyone to continue growing and developing new skills.

Metaphors: ‘grey / silver tsunami’, ‘demographic cliff’

Implying intergenerational conflict: ‘baby boomer’

Recognise the diversity within generations.

Descriptions implying youth is better: ‘young at heart’

Describe older people based on their traits or characteristics, not their age.

Don’t call people in care homes ‘patients’ or ‘residents’

A ‘person living in a care home’, or ‘people living in retirement homes’.

Click here to download the guide on talking about ageing and older age.

Age-inclusivity in photography

The Centre for Ageing Better has also developed a free image library showing ‘positive and realistic’ stock photos of older people in a bid to challenge negative and stereotypical views of later life. All of the images in the library are free to use for personal or commercial use without attribution, and cover various themes related to ageing such as health, community activity and employment.

Click here to access Centre for Ageing Better’s image library.

More useful resources

Some other key resources on language and ageing include:

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