Tips on living a healthy and full life

Growing older: What age is considered elderly?

Ask ten different people at what age someone is considered an “old” person or a senior citizen, and you’ll receive ten different answers. Do a quick Google search, and you’ll have hundreds of thousands of differing opinions. The fact is, what age is considered elderly can be a very subjective topic.

Some people consider a 60-year-old person to be a senior, while some would argue that that person is still very young. While one baby boomer (someone born between 1946 and 1964) might think of themselves as a middle-aged adult, others may consider themselves senior citizens.

As the caregiver for your parent, you might be faced with important questions about old age: At what point is your parent considered a senior citizen? When does a middle-aged person transition into old age? And how should you refer to your parent (besides just saying “Mom” or “Dad”) in a way that isn’t condescending or derogatory?

Let’s take a look at some age-related terms and dive deeper into the ultimate question: At what age is someone considered a senior?

Understanding age terminology

What age is considered elderly: An older woman smiling

There are all sorts of words and terms floating around that are used to describe older people. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be. Some words have certain connotations that aren’t always appropriate, depending on the circumstances, while others are generally accepted.

Below you’ll find some of the most common terms used to describe older adults.

Senior

Generally, the word “senior” on its own is a good way to describe an older adult. The word itself carries positive connotations. After all, the senior employee at a company or the senior-most player on a sports team are seen as experienced and respected. But you should be careful not to assume any older adult is a senior — someone on the younger end of older age may not think of themselves as senior at all.

Senior citizen

The term “senior citizen” typically refers to someone who is retired and above the age of 60 or 65. That may be because in most industrialized Western nations, around 60 or 65 is usually the age at which an older adult can start receiving social assistance programs based on their age — Old Age Security in Canada, for example. But be aware that while the term “senior citizen” is commonly used to describe older adults, some find it patronizing.

Elderly

When someone is in an advanced stage of life that is well past middle age, they might be referred to as “elderly.” This term often carries negative connotations and might suggest that someone is frail or in poor health. We’re willing to bet that your mom or dad wouldn’t appreciate being called an elderly person — the same is true for most older adults. In fact, while the term “elderly” is still commonly used, many experts consider it to be an outdated term, and maybe even ageist.

Old

Simply describing someone as “old” is, of course, subjective. An 18-year-old person might seem old to a six-year-old, even though the 18-year-old is still in their youth. Calling a senior person “old” is generally considered rude, but referring to someone as “older” is more neutral. “Older” implies a progression of age without the negative connotations — that’s why you’ve seen the term “older adult” appear commonly throughout this article.

Geriatric

Geriatric care is a branch of medicine focusing on older adults and the health care needs of aging people. This can include nursing care, end-of-life care (hospice), and much more. The term might be used commonly in the world of medical care, but it isn’t generally used outside of that context. It carries connotations of the person being worn out, senile, or having a low life expectancy.

As you can see, there are many terms out there to describe an older adult. Some of them carry negative undertones while some are more neutral in nature. But we’re still faced with the question: What age is considered elderly? Is there a specific time when old age begins, or a cut-off between middle age and old age?

When is someone considered a senior?

Older man wearing a hat

There are different ways to approach the subject of what age a person is considered a senior. It varies widely depending on geographical location and social context, but the field of gerontology — the scientific study of aging — gives us a few commonly accepted ways to define what “old age” is.

Chronological age

Defining age by chronology means considering the number of years that have elapsed since a person’s birth. Of course, the numbers themselves are subjective. Senior citizen discounts might be given at age 50, or at age 65. Retirement age might be 50 in one country, but above 70 in another. So defining old age by years of age can be tricky, as we’ve already seen.

Social role

When you define old age by someone’s social role, you’re considering factors like when someone retires from the workforce, when the person starts receiving forms of social assistance, or when the person’s own children have children of their own. Again, these factors are not set in stone — retirement age can vary widely, and people can become grandparents at younger and older ages.

Physical health or appearance

Defining someone’s age by their physical health or appearance means that you might consider them a senior when they get grey hair and wrinkles, or start to experience physical or cognitive declines usually related to older age, like Alzheimer’s disease. This is, of course, a slippery slope toward ageism — you don’t want to assume that someone is old just because of their appearance, or that their health status is a direct result of advanced age.

It’s also important to consider that the age someone is considered a senior has changed drastically in a historical context. People today are living much longer than they did hundreds of years ago, and even only a few decades ago.

In Canada, the average life expectancy for males born in 1990 is 74, and 81 for females. By comparison, the life expectancy for those born in 2012 increased to 80 years of age for men and 84 for females.

What’s more, according to the Canadian census, the number of people aged 85 and older grew by 19.4% from 2011 to 2016, which is nearly four times the rate for the overall Canadian population. As people live longer, the threshold for what age is considered elderly is shifting.

If you look back in time, someone who was only 45 years old may have been considered a senior, but today that person is thought of as middle-aged. The point is this: Whether it’s in a historical context, or judged by chronological age, social role, or physical health, age is subjective and means different things to different people.

The bottom line: What age is considered elderly?

It’s clear that no single definition can capture what older age really is. Your parent might be a resident in a retirement home but still feel young at heart. Mom or Dad might be just reaching retirement age but be plagued by health problems usually experienced by much older people. It all depends on the circumstances at hand.

In most industrialized Western nations, someone is considered a senior by the age of 65 or so. But remember: That number is based primarily on retirement age and the age at which social benefits kick in. Many people would not consider someone a senior until they’re at least over the age of 70. It’s simply a subjective matter.

For your parent, what is considered “old” is entirely up to them. We all have to define it for ourselves.

What are your thoughts on what age someone should be considered a senior? Have you had these kinds of discussions with your family members? We would love to hear your opinion.

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  • Lena Lussier
    Sat Nov 09 2019, 22:25
    You’re call a senior earlier then you think. In High school, College and university and work place. To me it’s a compliment as you say -more experienced. You’ve earned respect. Theses days you get no respect from the young they figure you should respect them. Hate to see how they are treated when they are Seniors.
  • Lucy
    Sun Nov 10 2019, 15:51
    This topic is very subjective. My mom is currently 74 but is going on 90. Upon a visit when she was 63, she said ‘I’m old now and can’t do much.’ I thought that way of thinking only leads down that path. If you tell yourself you are old, then you’re and subsequently act like it. In huge contrast, my friend and athlete, is 64. She can out-cycle any guy in their 30s, has a great, muscular body, dressed in today’s trends, and acts silly at times. She MIGHT be old at 85 with the ways things are going! Things have changed with the generations as to what’s considered old. Our parents acted older than what they were by today’s standards. My friends and I, all in our very early 50s, still act and dress like teenagers closer to what our kids look/act like. There’s not so much of a gap. In fact, I’m sillier than my 20 year old. I dress and look much younger than my years. That’s a whole other topic - looks. I think my friends and I look great for our ages - 50 is the new 30! Myself, I won’t admit that I’m getting older because if I let my guard down then I will succumb to that kind of thinking. I’m an athlete as well and my body is starting to rebel - things are creaky and I’m not as fast as I used to be but that’s not stopping me. I have lots to say on this topic and if you’d like to contact me please do.
  • Donna M. Maggio
    Mon Mar 23 2020, 18:17
    As a person who worked in a hospital 42 years before retiring, my perception of "elderly" (age 65 and over ) is related to the physical condition of an individual , not chronological age. Lack of mobility , frailty, chronic disease ,inability to care for oneself , and also an accompanying mindset preventing the individual from physically recovering , or psychologically moving forward , factor into my perception. I am not saying it is their fault or that their mindset is deliberate. Rather that their genetics and life journey contributed to the aging process , Whereas, others have been dealt a"a better hand" , retaining youthful attitudes and physical gifts ( great skin , athleticism , sharp mindedness, for ex.) Enabling them to enjoy vibrant life .
  • Marie Grace
    Mon Apr 27 2020, 20:48
    Hello Im in my 70's and work 3 jobs.My health is good and I consider myself still young.☺️ and lucky. Thax, Marie Grace
  • Bill
    Mon May 18 2020, 00:12
    I'm 81 and living in a retirement community. We have residents in their 60s to over 100. Most who are my age and younger still go hiking, read professional journals or are Habitat volunteers. Some still work; if not to earn a living, then to stay active. My attorney, who is several years older than I, still goes to his office 6 (not5) days a week. I bicycle regularly 15 - 20 miles at a time. What I don't see is any discussion about treating people like myself, not just with respect, but with the same kind of respect given to adults under 65. "Treating the elderly with respect" always seems to focus on people who spend all their time in a rocking chair. I'm not nearly that old.
  • J. Williamungerbuhler
    Mon Jul 20 2020, 20:16
    WOW...I run 2 companies and I don't even think of my self as old. Key is... just keep going on and you will keep on going on. That's simple. Key is: bodies in motion remain in motion … bodies at rest…….SO JUST KEEP GOING...
    • JaneVock
      Tue Aug 25 2020, 13:39
      Indeed, as best we can, KEEP GOING!
  • Sally Furr
    Sat Aug 01 2020, 05:04
    It's always been strange to me as I'm from a family of me & four brothers. My two older bro's were called "baby boomers". . .for years you had to be born by 1953 or so to be considered a "BBoomer". Meanwhile there was no categeation for someone born in mid-to late 50's (like me). Suddenly I read "Baby Boomers" were born 1946 to 1964. Didn't read that until recently, so now I evidently qualify as a "Baby Boomer". Question being, WHO CARES? I've been "carded" into my late 30's. . .modeled for years & kept myself in great shape. . .nobody could believe my age (staying out of the sun, healthy eating, regular exercise, no smoking) all makes a huge difference as does attitude. I've never seen the point of being categorized into ANY group! I'm just ME. Dated many younger guys who acted like "old farts" (they didn't last long). My husband is almost 12 years older & I often remind him he's not exactly 35 years old anymore. . then I think "why", let him be the person he feels he is! Guess the only way to categorize someone is by how they feel & act. Think these "categories" are ridiculous!!
  • Marvin McConoughey
    Sun Aug 02 2020, 11:53
    Thank you for an excellent statement on age categories. At the age of 83, I now consider myself to be very old. Alternatively, I view myself as aged, which sounds appropriately older than senior or elderly. Functionally, I am also very old. My daily two mile rural walk is painful, my height has decreased several inches, and I now do daily exercises in addition to walking to cope as best I can with the aging process. Mentally, I remain sharp, though not as cutting-edge as in my youth. Life is good, my wife and I enjoy our loving marriage of 53+ years, and reading remains one of my favorite endeavors. There has never been a better time in history in which to grow old.
    • JaneVock
      Tue Aug 25 2020, 13:38
      Oh my gosh. I loved reading your inspirational post. Thank you so much for sharing!
  • margaret
    Wed Sep 02 2020, 22:11
    I am a "senior" and my chronological age is 88years, I have many serious comorbidities. BUT for some reason I do not look my age. There are days that I feel like I am 200years old, and days that I feel mid forties. I still live alone , do all my housework, cooking and baking (which I like to do) I do most of my heavy groceries on line and really like to go to my favourite Fruit and Vegetable store, weather permitting. I feel quite strongly that I am not 88, I AM a Mom/Grandma/Aunt/Friend/knitter/watercolourist/carver/ and an avid reader, the 88 is just a number 90% of the time. thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion. Margaret
    • JaneVock
      Tue Sep 29 2020, 14:51
      I appreciate you voicing your opinion Margaret. I think that our 'essential self' never ages, even though the body does and we can have days when we feel we are 200 years old! I love your description of your identities, from Mom to watercolourist and carver. You sound like a Renaissance woman to me! Thanks again for sharing!Take good care, Jane
  • Betty Harris
    Thu Sep 17 2020, 21:56
    I consider old age when your mobility becomes affected. If you need a cane or Walker or even a wheelchair. I consider one elderly when they reach 85 and have significant health problems that keep them from every day activities like walking and enjoying the things they use to before becoming somewhat ambulatory.
  • Carol R
    Thu Oct 22 2020, 15:16
    In many cases longevity is achieved by thinking positive, feeling young by keeping interested in life and keeping a social network. Helping others and keeping the body and mind in the best possible way sharp helps. Age is just a number and if we're fortunate to be blessed with good health in our older years age doesn't really matter too much.
    • JaneVock
      Fri Nov 06 2020, 08:54
      Thanks so much for sharing Carol!Take good care, Jane
  • Alfonso Munevar
    Thu Oct 22 2020, 17:57
    Last month I became 80. I feel younger than that number. However, arthritis has being my companion for the last 15 years. I have always been physically active. Biking, jogging, walking swimming and streching every day. Had my knees replaced 2003 and 2005 and continue to be active at a slower pace. So when people ask my age, they say "you do not look that old, you look like 60-65". I do not feel that old either but my body reminds me -from time to time- that certain tasks are a bit difficult to do. Wonder if I am a senior or an elderly?
    • JaneVock
      Fri Nov 06 2020, 08:54
      I really get it Alfonso. Our essential self doesn't change but the body does, which is why it can be shocking when what the body can't what we can do in our minds! Thanks so much for sharing!Jane
  • Lois
    Fri Oct 23 2020, 01:20
    I recently turned 65, and planning to retire from my 20 year career in March. After a brief time of fun and relaxation, I plan to move on with my next adventure, whatever that turns out to be. I do not even slightly consider myself 'old', and I am constantly shocked that I am considered a senior. I walk a couple of miles a day, golf, snorkel, swim, and continue to think and behave like I am in my 40's rather than my mid 60's. If I am anything like my dad, that will continue until the day I leave this earth - he was 91 and still thought of himself as young. I really believe that you are only as old as you tell yourself you are (or when you believe it from other people). Young at heart translates to young, and if people think they are old I think they tend to act that out. My mom-in-law is 90 in 2 weeks and has had very limited mobility for a number of years, yet she is still very active in her heart and mind. Why do we have to end our life being 'elderly'. I agree this is an ageist outdated word, that can actually be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I also believe our life here on earth is only the beginning of our forever life. Maybe this is why I feel I am still very young!
    • JaneVock
      Mon Oct 26 2020, 13:44
      Thank you so much for sharing Lois. I really enjoyed reading your perspective on aging! Thanks again, Jane
    • JaneVock
      Fri Nov 06 2020, 08:47
      Hi Lois,I loved reading your response. Thanks. It seems to me we tend not to age in our hearts and in our minds, which is why it is sometimes shocking when we look in the mirror! Thanks again for sharing, Jane
  • Jeanette Ruscoe
    Thu Oct 29 2020, 10:00
    I don’t consider myself old ! I am66 and in good health been told I don’t look my age .i dye my hair wax my eye brows wear make up and. Dress fashionable Don’t sit around in a chair all day Defining old today is a difficult subject ,
    • JaneVock
      Fri Nov 06 2020, 08:35
      Indeed it is Jeanette! Thanks for sharing.Jane
  • Jaylin Shirewood
    Sat Oct 31 2020, 21:09
    What's interesting is the uneven divergence. 5 year olds are quite easy to age identify and there's not much health differences in those under 35. But as we get older when you meet one 70 year you've met just one 70 year old with their relatively unique convergence of healthy and youthful combination. That is some 70 year olds or better 90 year olds can appear similar and well be more similar physically than some people 30% younger. This makes sense as there are more years under the wide variety of diet, genetic and life circumstances that add up over longer life. I've seen 75 year old women do gymnastics while those far young die from age related disease. There are people over 95 well capable of great conversation, insight and even meaningful work.So its tough to formally put category. What's no surprise is health is generally enjoyed by the more advantaged. And someday when there is treatment for aging , well then the profound differences will begin.
    • JaneVock
      Fri Nov 06 2020, 08:08
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments Jaylin!
  • Larry Lisner
    Sat Nov 14 2020, 14:09
    I was called young man by someone who was probably younger than me or maybe just a couple years older than me! Having had my old age pension for 5 years & I have a white beard I took this as perjorative! I know I have always looked younger than my actual age & even appeared on TV for looking 10 years younger in 1995! I brought some groceries & toilet paper for my son & his family as they were self isolating because of Covid & the doorbell said ' someone is at the front door' & my son Simon said to my Grandson Finley 'it is Santa Claus at the door, oh no it's not, it is Grandpa! You are a senior once you receive your pension from the State or free prescriptions at the age of 60!
  • Judith CRAMPTON
    Wed Nov 25 2020, 09:57
    My personal opinion is that being referred to as Elderly is my friends mothers who are in there nineties. I don't mind being called a senior or retiree but would be offended by being referred to as Elderly. I am seventy three and during this lockdown have followed the guidelines but still do all my own shopping.
    • JaneVock
      Mon Nov 30 2020, 09:31
      Thanks for sharing Judith!Jane
    • JaneVock
      Tue Dec 01 2020, 08:23
      I don't really care for the term 'elderly' either Judith. Thanks for sharing.Jane
  • Sandy
    Sat Nov 28 2020, 15:11
    Loved your article, at the age of 62 I have no gray hair and no outside appearances of aging, as a matter of fact people can’t even guess my age, I like wearing hoodies and jeans an often wear a baseball cap, I try very hard to be young, not for others be for the sake of living, living a long healthy life. I even got a beagle pup and they live for 15 years and we are on a race to see who can out live who, so to all of you people out there facing aging keep you head high and try just once to not look nor act your age, it’s fun to be called a girl at 62, when I am out walking my pup. God bless old age.
    • JaneVock
      Mon Nov 30 2020, 09:31
      Loved your sharing Sandy. Thanks so much for posting!Jane
    • JaneVock
      Tue Dec 01 2020, 08:22
      Love your upbeat posting Sandy. Thanks for sharing.Take good care, Jane
  • Candido Aguiar
    Sat Dec 05 2020, 19:29
    I m 60 years old and I haven't work all the time for the last 40 years, I spend 13 years in prison,vans I haven't fix my incontax for the last 3 years, now here is the question, I still have the rights to get benefic when I decided to get early retirement when I ll turn 62?
    • JaneVock
      Tue Dec 08 2020, 09:36
      Hi Candido,Yes you will still be entitled to some Canada Pension Plan benefits if you worked for some of those 4o years. You MUST, however, file your income tax in order to receive these benefits. There is no way around this-they have to be filed. The good news is that there is time to do this before you turn 62.Take good care, Jane
  • Pam Arthur
    Thu Dec 10 2020, 06:49
    I’m almost 65 and most days feel 85. My body hurts all the time. I consider myself a senior but not elderly. Doesn’t help that this year has been cruel, so many deaths and sadness. Hoping for a better 2021.
  • Barbara Jenkins
    Fri Dec 18 2020, 18:45
    I was told that old age begins at 15 years older than you currently are. I'm 72 now, so I guess old age for me starts at 87.
  • Sean Sollars
    Thu Dec 31 2020, 17:20
    I am 54 and living on permanent disability pay. Paying 500 a month rent utilities included. Hard to get into low income housing for disabled folks.
    • JaneVock
      Mon Jan 04 2021, 10:09
      Oh yes, it is extremely hard. I am hoping the government allots more funding to low income housing for people with disabilities.Take good care, Jane
  • Alf Riley
    Sat Jan 16 2021, 15:58
    I agree it's very subjective, but I think looks have much to do with defining whether people are regarded as being 'elderly" You see some celebrities in their late 70s who look remarkably young, but when you look at the people around you of the same age they more often than not meet the criteria that defines them as elderly. This has nothing to do with fitness; I've seen extremely fit people who nevertheless look old, and have done since their early 60s. . Men often look older than women of the same age because they tend to lose their hair earlier, or it goes grey fairly quickly o ce they reach their early 60s. However, keeping fit and having the luck to avoid ill health can convince people you're younger than you look, and that's something we tend to hope for during our advancing years.
  • Neil Rylander
    Sun Feb 07 2021, 16:59
    I'm 80 as of last June. I can tell I'm not 65 anymore when I was riding hard bike rides and every hill was a good hill and about 5 or 5K miles a year. Old? I can tell I'm not as full of energy but I get out and walk daily, I know things are changing slowly, but it is what it is. If someone say's I'm old, I correct them with, "Yes I am older, but no old!" The term "Senior" I do not like at all. It's demeaning. :-) Neil
    • JaneVock
      Tue Feb 16 2021, 10:26
      Thanks so much for sharing Neil!Jane
  • Timothy Gantenbein
    Wed Feb 10 2021, 09:09
    Hello, can I be considered a senior at the age of 62? birth date 3/28/1959)). I am on SSdisabity. I have been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy and other various health issues. I can provide documents by Physicians and Hospital and Clinics when needed as proof. I can be contacted at ph# 507-429-0824.
    • JaneVock
      Tue Feb 16 2021, 10:20
      Hi there Timothy,I see that your area code is 507, which is Minnesota. I am sorry I cannot help you with the American system.
  • m saeed
    Sun Mar 14 2021, 22:36
    When your thought meet with children age, you become a senior of your family, it not matter with age limit !
  • Sylvia Frochter
    Thu Apr 01 2021, 18:06
    I am 63 and have many health problems, at the moment I have a cold that possibly could be COVID and I am very annoyed that I have been unable to self-isolate as I have needed to do the required mutually obligations in order to receive the jobseeker allowance. This is a pointless exercise - there is currently a shortage of jobs. It would be more sensible if the government allowed all over sixties to not have any mutual obligations until they were offered COVID vaccinations - both of them, making them safe. This way they would not be stressed that they have caught COVID. At 63, believe me I feel old - I still remember how I felt when I was younger - full of energy - nothing like now.
  • Birdy Daniel
    Sun Apr 04 2021, 10:00
    Recently my eldest daughter bemoaned the fact that she has now entered the age when she remembered calling me “old” as a child. In my motherly wisdom, I responded, “Nothing. You are indeed old. Just ask your kids.” She just turned 38.
    • JaneVock
      Mon Apr 05 2021, 09:34
      Oh dear! If 38 is old, what is middle aged? what we used to all the teenage years?? Thanks for sharing Birdy.
  • Norma Aspeitia
    Tue Apr 06 2021, 15:22
    I never have considered myself old. I wish I did have to retire I had osteoporosis and osteopedia that force my issue to retire. I am sufficient enough to make my meals, grocery shop and take care of my dog needs I have many friends the thing is that I have not included excerise enough.
    • JaneVock
      Thu Apr 08 2021, 08:58
      Thanks for sharing Norma. Perhaps you could do some exercise with your many friends? How about a walk together? Take good care.
  • Ralph Rousseau
    Wed Apr 07 2021, 19:01
    I'm 84 in June (2021) mind and Spirit 60 ? -at 80 walked 2 miles every am (for 16 years)- no problem. Now 1/2 to 1 mile walk exhausted. Web says my med's (5) also Grief, major side effect is Fatigue . I have a Good Spirit - just tired of being tired. Is that Normal.
    • JaneVock
      Thu Apr 08 2021, 08:56
      Hi Ralph,I think it is best for you to check in with your doctor to explore possible reasons for feeling tired. AND, you are absolutely right that fatigue comes with grief. Many people are also reporting fatigue as we live through this pandemic. I would also say that even 1/2 mile a day is most impressive! Thanks for reaching out. Take good care.
  • Khush
    Wed May 12 2021, 08:11
    The term ‘old age’ is a complex metaphor. It conceals far more than it reveals. This is so because the semantics are diffused over a terrain that factors in looks, physiological efficiency, seriousness of contracted disease(s), mental acuity… each of these insert their impact upon the individual and hence determine the designation ‘old age’.And yet, this is not the entire story. There are always individuals that will emerge within the social fabric to show themselves as exceptions to any attempt at straightjacketing them within a certain category… but, be that as it may, such exceptions merely highlight the central feature, or element I deliberately did not include in the list of factors that determine old age as a phase within a lifespan.The element I’m referring to is a high degree of self-awareness and motivation to resist the ageing process, to not give in at any cost unless there is no fight left in the body. This is not an easily measurable quality. Yet many people possess it. Young and old. When one is younger, it function to support and delivers one’s desired goals. When one is old, it shows in the ability of those individuals to stand tall, look people in the eye, and challenge death to take them if it can…this challenge is enshrined within the wisdom they’ve acquired over a lifetime. It continues to sustain them and all those around them. For such people are not concerned about being old or dying. They’re always concerned with the living. It is their task not only to care for themselves, but to care for themselves so that they can care for others around them… in the process, they remain forever young…in their own eyes and the eyes of those that can truly see…