When Speaking of Age Ranges
What to Know
Age is usually used to describe a single age, but can be used for a range as well, as in "children age 5 to 10." Ages is used commonly for ranges ("children ages 5 to 10"). The adjective aged can be used, but it occasionally draws criticism as some prefer it reserved for things like wines and cheese, or in combining forms like "college-aged."
Consider these sentences:
The camp is for children age 6 through 12.
The camp is for children ages 6 through 12.
The camp is for children aged 6 through 12.
You’ll notice that the first sentence uses “age,” the second “ages,” and the third “aged.” This kind of construction is the subject of frequent query, but all three uses are common English idiom. However, the word age functions differently in each.
Use of 'Age' and 'Ages' for Ranges
In the first two examples, age is a noun. We often see the same phrasing used when speaking of one person being a single age:
The gift is for his oldest daughter, age 16.
“Age 16” is set off here as a relative clause with the usual introductory who omitted: The gift is for his oldest daughter, [who is of the] age 16.
The plural noun ages often works for the set of ages identified within a range:
The camp is for children [who are of the] ages 6 through 12.
In June the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine, distributed under the brand name Gardasil, for girls and women ages 9 to 26.
— Apoorva Mandavilli, Discover, January 2007
However, sometimes the singular noun age is encountered even when followed by a range:
For example, the first trial to be reported started with 56 children age 3 to 14, two-thirds with true autism and one-third with pervasive developmental disorder…
— John Travis, Science News, 17 Nov. 2001
Use of 'Aged' for Ranges
In the third example, aged is a past participial adjective formed from the verb age (aged adj sense 1 b: “having attained a specific age”).
The camp is for children [who are] aged 6 through 12
This construction is the one that sees the most criticism. Some usage commentators object to aged, arguing that the adjective should only modify things like wine stored in barrels and not be used to link people to their actual ages. But the use is very well established in English.
When I started at secondary school, aged eleven, Jake was sixteen and the star of the football team.
— Sophie Kinsella, I Owe You One, 2009
Japan certainly faces demographic challenges. It is already the oldest country in the world, as measured by both the median age of the population (46.3 years) and the share of the population aged 65 years or more (26 percent).
— Paul A. Laudicina, CNBC.com, 11 Feb. 2018
Varsity Tutors has a virtual summer camp offering free classes in everything from slime-making to dinosaurs to make-your-own Lego movies. Kids aged five through 18 can create their own schedule, with hour-long classes five days a week for each session.
— Lisa Milbrand, Real Simple, 21 May 2020
Aged is also used frequently as a combining form to describe people of a certain age. Sometimes it is attached to nouns, such as schools, that are commonly associated with people of a certain age. Hence, a word like college-aged usually describes a young adult in the 18-22 range (even though adults of any age attend college), while middle-aged describes those from 45 to 64 or thereabouts.
With a convenient location for a comic book store, most of the business the store receives is from sporadic college-aged customers and older middle-aged regulars with more of an income.
— Isabella Colaianni, The Pitt News: University of Pittsburgh, 17 July 2019