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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
Centenarians, seniors, and other words for old people
Tuesday December 16th 2014
Question
What do you call a person who is 100 years old or older? — Cindy, United States
Answer

A person who is 100 years old or older is a centenarian. Below you will find some quotes from news stories about centenarians, to show how this word is used. Meanwhile, here are some other words for people who are not quite as old as centenarians:

  • a person who is between 70 and 79 years old is a septuagenarian
  • a person who is between 80 and 89 years old is an octogenarian
  • a person who is between 90 and 99 years old is a nonagenarian

These words are for specific age groups, and they are used primarily in formal contexts. In casual conversation and informal writing, the polite word for an old person is senior or senior citizen, as in this example:  

  • Seniors (or senior citizens) qualify for a discount at most movie theaters.

 Referring to someone as an "old person" is considered very impolite. 

 

Quotes about centenarians

“…the majority of active centenarians say they do not feel their chronological age; on average, they report feeling 20 years younger.” – Lynn Peters Adler, J.D., Next Avenue, Forbes.com, Aug. 20, 2013

“Bernice Gordon turned 100 last Saturday.  This puzzle makes her the first known centenarian ever to have a crossword in The Times.” - Laura Magruder, New York Times, January 14, 2014

“One large long-term study of people over 100 years old shows centenarians share many traits, tendencies and traditions, even when living oceans apart.” – Alanna Glassman, Chatelaine, Sept. 11, 2014

 

 

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