Don’t patronize older adults by calling them ‘the elderly’

In English grammar, we use the definite article in front of a noun when we believe the listener knows exactly what we are referring to. Further, use of the word “the” suggests singular, as in The Pope. When you meet The Pope, then you’ve met The Pope. When you meet “the elderly” you’ve really only met one person who also happens to be older. | Use of the word “the” becomes a linguistic tactic to drive home the idea that I am different from that which I speak about, explains Sali Tagliamonte, a Canadian linguist currently at the University of Toronto. Using “the” creates a separation between the subject and the speaker, a distancing. —Adrienne Ienne, Seattle Times