What Age is Considered Elderly?

As of now, what age is considered elderly? We look at what it means to be elderly in the 21st century versus other times in history. In addition, we look at the reasons to embrace your place in life at any age.

Old” at Any Age

In your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, it’s fun to joke about being “old.” 25 year old’s remark how old they feel when they no longer enjoy going out and partying. 30 year old’s announce how old they are because they get excited about buying a new washing machine. 45 year old’s say they’re too old to keep working and are ready to cash in their 401k already.

However, as you truly age and enter your 50s and beyond, you’ll look back at what you used to think was old and laugh. So how old is old? What age is considered elderly? Let’s discuss.

“Elderly” in Popular History to Present Day

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As NPR reports, Americans in the early 20th century believed that “elderly” was more socially acceptable and preferable over being called “old.” In 1918, Dr. William Brandy said “We like your use of the world elderly. Maybe we would have more friends now if we had not insisted upon anything old when we meant elderly.”

Interestingly, in 1956, the tables had turned. In response to a 20 year old writing about a 40 year old as “elderly” in a Washington Post story, the paper published a response article from the executive editor. In his post, he advised his staff on how to use the term.

“A lot of us old folks in our 50s do not like to be called elderly… When you are 16 you wonder how an old man of 30 manages to drag himself around. When you get to be 30, you feel that 60 is as old as Methuselah. When you get to be 60 you will think that the ‘aged’ are those in their 90s.”

Though the use of “elderly” has passed in and out of acceptance, it appears one thing is clear: your perception of old age relates directly to your current age.

Present Day Old Age

Nowadays, the beginning of old age depends on who you’re speaking with. AARP reported that a  study done in 2009 found that old age begins somewhere between 60 and 74. Folks who were under 30 at the time of the survey said that old age begins at 60, middle-aged participants agreed that 70 is the start of old age, and people over 65 years old said old age started closer to 74.

More recently in 2017, The U.S. Trust conducted a study wherein Millennials cited old age beginning at 59. In the same study, Gen Xers said it begins at 65, and Boomers and the Silent Generation said you’re officially old at age 73. The consistent theme here is that the younger you are, the younger you think old age hits. The older you are, the older you think you must be to be considered elderly.

Age Terminology

The definition of elderly is relatively ambiguous – “rather old, especially being past middle age,” according to Merriam Webster

It’s no wonder that there’s no consensus about what age is officially elderly. To get on common ground, let’s break down some age terminology, as defined by Elizz:

  • Elderly – We’ve already defined elderly, but it’s important to note that the term typically has a negative connotation. It’s generally used to imply that someone is fragile or frail – no wonder people take offence!
  • Old – Old is subjective, depending on who you’re speaking with. While referring to someone as “old” can be rude, referring to them as “older” is often seen as polite.
  • Senior – People often give the word “Senior” a positive meaning. For example, the way a senior employee is respected and revered. It implies a wealth of knowledge, in addition to old age.
  • Senior Citizen – In Western nations, people who are around 60 or 65 are considered senior citizens. It implies that a person is retired and has access to social assistance programs and discounts. However, some people may consider Senior Citizen rude in certain contexts.
  • Geriatric – Geriatric refers specifically to medicine for people of old age. It’s typically used in the correct context, though it can carry the implication that a person is worn out or has a low life expectancy.

The Pros of Being an Elder

article from MedicareLifeHealth on what age do people call elderly

With all the negative connotations surrounding aging and age terminology, it’s no wonder people try to fight growing older. People tend to overlook all the great things that come with aging. When you’re feeling glum about getting older, consider the following benefits:

  1. Retirement and senior assistance programs – To start, as we mentioned above, after a certain age you become eligible for social assistance programs. People generally see age 65 as time to retire and in the United States, you’re eligible for Medicare beginning at age 65.
  1. Senior citizen discounts – Next, lots of retailers offer senior citizen discounts. The Senior List offers a huge, up-to-date list of all the places you can get a discount at as a senior. Who doesn’t like saving money?
  1. Clearer priorities – As you age, you’re able to try out new things and decide what matters and what doesn’t. Being older means you’ve figured out what priorities matter to you. Mixed emotions and societal expectations no longer control you or influence your priorities.
  1. You don’t care what people think of you – In the same vein, as you age, you realize people are too busy worrying about themselves to care about what you’re doing. And if they are watching what you’re doing, time has taught you that their opinions don’t matter.
  1. Wisdom – Additionally, with so much life lived, you’ve had time to learn many of life’s lessons. You’re knowledgeable on more topics. You’ve built up a sense of good judgement. You understand how to manage your own emotions and you have a higher self worth.
  1. You realize that age is just a number – Now, it’s true what they say: you’re only as old as you feel. As time passes and each birthday means less, the importance of your age decreases as well. Your age doesn’t say anything about your skills, competency, potential or performance.
    • After all, Nelson Mandela wasn’t elected president until the age of 75. In addition,
    • Additionally, Grandma Moses started painting at 76 and went on to be praised by JFK.

Conclusions on What Age is Considered Elderly?

In conclusion, no matter what phase of life you are in, words should not define how you feel or what you do.

Elderly is just a word.

You get to decide your age’s definition and how it affects your life.

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