When Do You Become a Senior Citizen?

Some would argue that age is just as much a state of mind as it is a state of being.

And with Baby Boomers now turning 65, the question of when a person becomes a senior citizen has become a topic of conversation.

Is there a certain age? Or is it when you FEEL like a senior citizen?

In 2010, about half of 64-year-olds responding to a Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey said the term “senior citizen” does not apply to them because they don’t “feel” like a senior. They described themselves as still being active and young at heart.

In the same survey, 96 percent of 50-year-olds, the youngest of the Baby Boomers, also rejected the term.

The 64-year-olds who embraced the term did so primarily for economic reasons, because they are now eligible for senior discounts.

When asked to pinpoint when “old age” begins, both the oldest and youngest Boomers selected ages well beyond them. The youngest Boomers said a person becomes old at age 78, while the oldest boomers said old age begins at 80.

The term “senior citizen” was first coined during a 1938 political campaign as a euphemism for “old person,” and now enjoys widespread usage in the common vernacular, legislation, and business. Some dictionaries define “senior citizen” as a person over the age of 65.

In legislation, the term applies to the age at which pensions, social security, or medical benefits for the elderly become available. In this country, traditionally people have been eligible to retire with full Social Security benefits at age 65. Additionally, one can retire early at age 62 and receive a portion of – but not full – retirement benefits. Because of increases in average life expectancy and stresses on the federal budget, however, Congress has passed legislation to gradually increase the full retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2027.

Many federally and state-funded programs also qualify individuals based on age. For example, Area Agencies on Aging provides home-delivered meals and congregate meals to senior centers and apartment communities. To participate, an individual must be at least 60 years of age or the spouse of someone 60 years of age.

In business applications, the term “senior” often is applied to special discounts and customer loyalty programs which vary by age and store.

Receiving an AARP card in the mail is a rite of passage for those turning 50. If one’s spouse is already a member, then one can receive senior discounts regardless of age.

All this being said, the boundary line between middle age and old age in our society cannot be defined exactly because governments and organizations don’t apply standard definitions or meanings.

People may consider themselves seniors because of changes in activities or social roles – when they become grandparents or when their health declines. Some consider themselves seniors when they are invited to join AARP, qualify for Medicare, or officially retire from the workplace.

When do you think you become a senior?

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Posted In: Senior Care