Macquarie Dictionary


Reflecting Australia’s gerrys

A friend of mine in Singapore reported that the Singaporean government has taken up the term pioneer to refer to anyone old enough to have contributed to Singapore’s early nationhood from 1955 onwards. Pioneers are being celebrated in various ways.

It led me to think about the way the dictionary might reflect our ageing population. Some of the new-ish words that we have added are:



elder an aged person
elder abuse the physical, sexual, financial, or social abuse of an elderly person by someone on whom they are dependent for their wellbeing.
elder law that area of legal practice which relates to the concerns of the elderly, as the law relating to property and finances, residential care, authority delegation, wills, pensions and benefits, and family conflict.
geri  or gerry a colloquialism for an elderly person
gerontophobia 1.  the fear of growing old.
2.  hatred of the elderly. 
granny cam   1.  an electronic surveillance system in the house which detects such changes as lights going on and off, heat in the kitchen or bathroom, etc., as a means of checking the safety of an elderly person left alone in the house.
2.  a miniature camera installed in a nursing home or aged care facility as a means of monitoring the activities of the staff.
grey power the influence, especially political, exerted by the elderly.
grey-on-tray  a colloquialism for a snowboarder who appears to the speaker to be a person of advanced years
senior moment a colloquialism for an instance of forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, etc., attributed to old age.
aged worker  a worker who is certified as being aged and therefore entitled to earn less than the normal minimum rate prescribed for his or her classification.
grey nomad a colloquialism for an older person, often retired from full-time work, who travels around the country, living in a caravan or motorhome.
frail aged 1.  designating an elderly person who exhibits symptoms such as muscle weakness, exhaustion, and slowed gait, and who may be prone to increased instability and confusion.
2.  the frail aged, people in this physical and mental state.
ageing in place a policy that supports elderly people who wish to live in their own chosen dwelling in retirement and old age, the aim being to ensure a combination of safety, comfort
sandwich generation the baby boomer generation in their fifties who are caring for elderly parents while at the same time supporting their own children, as by acting as childminders for the grandchildren.

It hadn’t occurred to me that this was a growth area of Australian English, but why should I be surprised? It is another aspect of our society that the dictionary will continue to record.

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