Just A Number

By Chelle Cordero

May 20, 2016 4 min read

Being labeled a "senior citizen" is a term relative to your social status, your employment, the number of discounts available and how old you really feel. In other words, there is no defined age at which a person officially becomes a senior citizen. And "senior" no longer means old.

Once considered a senior citizen group, the AARP begins membership at the ripe young age of 50 and offers myriad discounts on travel, dining, insurance, shopping and more; and if you are married to an AARP member, you don't even have to be 50 to enjoy privileges. Various discounts begin at different ages, but all of them that AARP helps facilitate are in place by age 65. Today, membership in AARP is deemed a rite of passage -- not an admission or acceptance of "old age."

The United States government hasn't helped to determine what age qualifies one as a senior citizen. A baby boomer becomes a "partial" senior citizen at the age of 62, a "full" senior citizen at 66 and a "super" senior at 70, based on when he or she begins collecting Social Security retirement. And while it might affect your taxes, you don't even need to be retired to collect Social Security benefits. Future financial considerations are making the age of senior citizen even more fluid; at this point, people born in 1960 or later will not reach full retirement age until 67. While the federal health insurance program for seniors, Medicare, still takes effect at age 65, there has been talk of eventually raising that age to 67 because of funding limitations.

Places where older Americans can live independently and age in comfort may have the moniker of an over-55 community, senior housing or retirement community. Some small, structured communities designed for seniors have recreational facilities, shopping, medical support, dining and preplanned social events right on campus. Residences can range from free-standing private homes or town houses to smaller condos, apartments or even studios. Each residence is traditionally designed to allow for aging-in-place with outside maintenance taken care of to allow for an easy, relaxed life. Very often, you'll find 60-year-olds who are referred to as "the kids" and 80-year-olds who maintain very active lives. Age seems to disappear.

Even the world at large is beginning to lose the concept of senior citizens being "too old." Models used to be considered out of play by the ripe old age of 25. Today's hot female models and icons include Helen Mirren (70), Christie Brinkley (62), Jane Fonda (78), Veronica Webb (51) and Jessica Lange (67.) Super '60s model Twiggy is making a return and doing a spot for L'Oreal at the age of 66. Women drool over "silver foxes" Pierce Brosnan at 63 and Sting at 64. AARP has a list of the Sexiest Men Over 50, which includes George Clooney (55), Denzel Washington (61), Liam Neeson (63), Bruce Springsteen (66) and Mark Harmon (64). Beauty is no longer reserved for the 20-something millennials.

The practice of geriatric medicine and gerontology is for adults 65 to 85. Studies have shown a significant portion of this population suffers from frailty, loss of muscle mass, incontinence, memory issues and interactions from common age-related medications. Geriatricians are physicians specifically familiar with illnesses and disorders that affect this demographic, but everyone's body is different. When studies are done on a smaller portion of this age group -- for example, people between 65 and 74 -- there are fewer noticeable health issues than there are for adults even just 10 years younger.

How old is a senior citizen? Philosopher Francis Bacon once said, "I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am."

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