Old People Are _______.

Old People Are _______.

November 9, 2016

Whether you’re a millennial or baby boomer, you probably have an opinion about the elderly. Our own experiences tend to color our perceptions of older generations. If we’ve only been around cranky older people, then we’re likely to think all older people are cranky. And if we’ve been surrounded by lovely, kind, and gentle elderly people, then we tend to think more positively about older generations. Not everyone can be pigeonholed neatly into a group that feels similarly about older people, but trends do show up when the data is analyzed. We asked over 4,000 individuals to complete this sentence: Old people are _________.

What do people really think when it comes to the elderly? Read on to find out.

Not Appreciating Our Elders, by State

The state that had the most negative perceptions of older people was West Virginia, which clocked in at nearly 32 percent. It was closely followed by Kansas, with a little over 31 percent, and Maine, which showed a 30 percent negative association toward older people. Going down the line, Maine was followed by Minnesota (almost 29 percent), Alaska (28.5 percent), Idaho (26 percent), and Nevada (nearly 26 percent). West Virginia and Kansas both have a large percentage of young adults, which may account for the states’ standings.

Loving the Old Folks, by State

On the flip side, Montana (100 percent) and Louisiana (91 percent) residents had the most positive things to say about older people, followed closely by Arkansas (89 percent). New Hampshire (almost 89 percent) and Kentucky (about 88.5 percent) were also highlighted, followed by Tennessee and Utah.

There may be a few reasons why residents from these states speak so highly about older generations. Montana is home to many Native Americans, which may boost positive feelings. Louisiana, in second place, also has a solid population of Native Americans.

What Your Age Says About Your Feelings

When looking at survey respondents by age, there was definitely a negative trend within the younger age groups, which tended to drop off as respondents got older. There are a few outliers, though, such as the 19.4 percent rate of negative words for 54-year-old respondents. This represents a higher rate than those 12 years younger and is nearly three times that of the 55-year-old crowd.

Younger people had a much higher rate of negative descriptors regarding their elderly counterparts. The 25-year-old age bracket had a negative descriptor rate of over 30 percent, which may be because perceptions about growing older are far different for younger generations.

The age with the lowest rate of negative words about old people happened to be 55; those respondents locked in a rate of fewer than 7 percent. Perhaps this is because the older a person is, the more they appreciate their elders (and maybe because they recognize that old age is on its way).

Sad, Fun, Sweet? What People Say About Old Folks

This word cloud really sums up how our respondents feel about older people.

While there are plenty of negative words represented here, the “wise” bubble is huge, as are a few others – namely “experienced,” “interesting,” and “nice.” The top negative word is “slow,” followed by “old,” “fragile,” and “frail.”

Choice Words for Old Folks

Overwhelmingly, respondents described elderly people as “wise.” This positive adjective garnered nearly 20 percent of the vote – roughly three times as much as the second-most used descriptor: “experienced.” Other popular picks were “slow” and “interesting” (more than 4 percent each), “nice” (more than 3 percent), and “old” (less than 3 percent).

The word “wise” is respondents’ top pick, likely because wisdom is a tenet of aging that most people expect, either in themselves or in those around them. It’s no wonder that many people describe the elderly as wise since older people have lived many decades and have logged plenty of experience in their journal of life.

Do Men or Women Adore Their Elders More?

Overall, men and women responded differently when it came to describing elderly people. The top word for both women and men was “wise,” followed closely by “experienced.” From there, though, the descriptors don’t really match up. In the No. 3 spot, men said “slow” and women responded with “interesting,” while in the No. 4 spot, men picked “old” and ladies chose “slow.”

While men tended to be a tad more negative as their answers progressed, women were a little more positive. Highlights from the list on the men’s side included “dying” and “boring,” as well as “cranky” and “stubborn.” Still, men also said old people were “friendly,” “sweet,” and “interesting.” Some of the negatives on the women’s side included “frail” and “sad,” but several also described them as “kind,” “great,” and “precious.”

Which Race/Ethnicity Appreciates Their Elders the Most?

Breaking down the respondents based on race showed a few differences as well. “Wise” continued to be the No. 1 overall response across all races, and “experienced” appeared in the top three responses for all races except Native American/Alaskan Native. “Interesting” was No. 2 for their group, while it showed up as No. 3 among white or European Americans. “Slow” showed up just once: in the No. 2 spot for Asian-Americans. Likewise, “old” was the only word used by Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish respondents.

There may be a few cultural differences that can help explain some of these findings. Native Americans, in particular, are known to really value and appreciate their elders, which might account for the bevy of positive words attributed to older people within the survey. This doesn’t mean other races don’t appreciate older generations; it just helps show the high esteem Native Americans have for their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Old People and the Generation Gap

The generation gap also revealed a few differences. “Wise” and “experienced” were the top two descriptors across the board, and “interesting” appeared on each list as well – although it was a little farther down for millennials.

While the descriptors that came from baby boomers were overwhelmingly positive, a few negative adjectives crept into the top 10 for Gen Xers, including “slow,” “fragile,” and “old.”  While millennials had similar answers, they did rank “slow” and “old” higher than Gen Xers. This may indicate that people in older generations are more tolerant of aging, while younger people are distanced enough from old age that they’re less patient.

Older and Wiser

While some feel that older people are slow, annoying, boring, or wrinkly, it turns out that there are even more people who think the life experiences of their elders have made them wiser.  While everybody eventually grows old – if things go as planned – we tend to appreciate the elderly more as we age. At Bay Alarm Medical, we are here to help make sure you or your loved ones are protected.


We asked over 4,000 people in the United States to finish this sentence with one word: Old people are _____.


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