What Age Is Considered Elderly?

In this article...
  • Discover how the perception of old age differs between generations, and find out exactly which number is generally considered elderly in the modern world.

The definition of old age is changing. Where someone might have been considered elderly once they hit 60 in the past, most 60 year olds might be shocked if someone suggested they were geriatric. Older adults are still spearheading businesses, running marathons and contributing significantly to the economy. The debate begs the question — what age is considered elderly in today's society? 

Read on to find out the answer and discover how different age groups perceive the matter in unique ways.

What Age Is Considered Elderly in the U.S.?

According to the Social Security Administration, 9 out of 10 people over the age of 65 receive Social Security benefits, and 65 is the age that U.S. citizens are legally considered seniors. Some individuals who are this age still have full independence and show no signs of requiring additional care, which to them might make the senior classification a little strange.

The answer to this question, what age is considered elderly in the U.S., is mostly subjective, but there are some studies that have tried to examine the issue.

Health and Mortality Among Seniors

Researchers at Stanford University look at this matter from a different angle: by assessing health and mortality as opposed to years alive.

The findings suggest:

  • If you have a 1% or less chance of dying within the next year, you are middle aged.
  • If you have a 2% or more chance of dying in the next year, you're considered to be old.
  • Someone with a 4% or more chance of mortality within a year is defined as elderly or very old. 

Is 60 Years Old Considered Elderly?

In the 1950s, 55 would have been considered old, whereas 65 was elderly. With the advances we've made in health care and understanding what drives well-being, the goalposts have moved.

If you were to ask a very young person whether 60 is 'old', there's a strong chance they would say yes. Their perception of time and growing older is still relatively undeveloped. Whereas, if you were to ask most 60 year old people if they feel elderly, they would probably say no.

At What Age Is a Woman Considered Old?

This is a controversial topic, with a myriad of social factors playing into how women view themselves and how they are perceived by others. Females live 5% longer on average than males, which means that they technically age slightly slower.

That said, in the past, they were judged much more harshly as they reached middle age. Many older men retained their positions in TV and film roles, while women were often phased out as their youth faded. While this is starting to change now, it's still an imbalance within society that's in the process of shifting.

When all is said and done, there isn't a specific age that an individual man or woman is considered old — it depends more on factors such as health and lifestyle.

Attitudes Will Continue to Change

As health care continues to improve and the world becomes better adapted for an older population, attitudes towards aging will continue to morph. It's generally accepted that human beings are unlikely to live beyond 120 years, but quality of life and well-being are priorities for governments and health organizations alike. As such, more people than ever before will reach their centennial milestone. And, as average lifespan continues to rise, so too will what age someone is considered elderly.