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At What Age Are You Considered a Senior Citizen? (2024 Update)
Adrian White

Fact Checked And Reviewed By Doris Muthuri, Subject Matter Expert

By Adrian White, Certified Herbalist

Last Updated on April 15th, 2024

Senior Living

At What Age Are You Considered a Senior Citizen? (2024 Update)

As we get older, some of us start to wonder about senior citizenship. What age is considered a senior citizen? Why do we have a definition of senior citizenship? Am I the right age to be a senior yet? Most important: when do we get benefits, coverage, or other perks for advanced age?

There is a lot of legislature and history behind senior citizenship status. At what age you are considered a senior citizen can depend on the benefit or even the country where you live.

So, how old do you have to be a senior citizen? What happens when you become one? Read on to learn more.

What is a Senior Citizen?

A senior citizen is usually someone over age 60 or 65.¹ Exact age depends on country or location. Senior citizenship also indicates someone is unemployed or retired beyond this age.

The U.S. passed Medicare in 1965.² This legislation provides care for the low-income and elderly exiting the workforce.³

To determine who would receive Medicare, the U.S. defined what is a “senior citizen” and its threshold age. This would help decide who could receive government help in old age and when.

What age is a ‘Senior Citizen’? 

According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 55 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. An official senior is someone 65 years or older. This is the age when someone can retire and receive Social Security or Medicare benefits.⁴

                                                    Source: census.gov

Is the age 55 considered a Senior Citizen? 

No, not officially. You won’t get benefits like Social Security and Medicare for some time. But, according to U.S. News, at 55 you still may get senior discounts at some businesses, like restaurants.⁵

Senior citizen age can be different in other countries, too. In France, it is age 60 or 62. In Japan, it is 65, while in Canada it is 60, according to Parx Home Health Care.⁶

Employment and Retirement Considerations for Seniors

Besides retirement benefits, knowing senior citizen age can protect worker and employment rights. This may be critical in old age for working people.

Some work discrimination may happen due to differences in biological vs. chronological age. This means two workers can be identical number age, but one may “seem” older due to health or cellular state. It is unlawful to judge employment based on elderly appearance only.

In the U.S., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects the rights of older workers. This extends to any person 40 years and older. It prevents firing, loss of benefits, or other discrimination due to advanced age.⁸

The are some exceptions and limitations to these protections. If occupations need specific age brackets, such as for modeling, then the act does not apply.⁹

Programs And Rules for Senior Citizens

Why determine the age at which you are considered a senior citizen? The purpose is to help enforce or determine senior citizen benefits.

In the United States, benefits and programs for seniors may include:

AARP: A Pioneering Organization for the Aging Population

The American Association for Retired Persons gives primary benefits and discounts to people over 50. AARP stands as a non-profit entity dedicated to providing a comprehensive array of resources to its members, including widely circulated publications, financial tools, health information, and national discounts. Notably, AARP sets a relatively lower age threshold of 50 years old for individuals to be considered senior citizens within its purview.

Senior Couple at AARP
Source: Getty Images

This reduced age criterion serves a vital purpose: it enables those who may not yet be classified as elderly but are grappling with age-related challenges or disabilities to access the necessary resources and support systems. By extending its reach to a broader age range, AARP aims to foster a more inclusive and proactive approach to aging.

Medicare: Ensuring Healthcare Coverage for the Elderly

Medicare, Provides socialized health insurance for people 65 years or older. Medicare a federal health insurance program under the auspices of the Social Security Administration, caters to individuals aged 65 and above. However, it’s important to note that eligibility for Medicare coverage is not solely contingent on age; individuals with disabilities may also qualify for this essential healthcare program, regardless of their age.

Medicare: Ensuring Healthcare Coverage for the Elderly
Source: National Council On Aging

Additionally, certain special circumstances, evaluated on a case-by-case basis, could potentially render individuals eligible for Medicare benefits before reaching the standard age threshold of 65. This flexibility acknowledges the diverse and unique circumstances that individuals may face as they navigate the complexities of aging and health.

Social Security

It provides monthly payment benefits to people as early as age 62. The Social Security Administration, a federal entity tasked with administering retirement benefits, currently sets the age of eligibility at 66 or 67 years old. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these age thresholds have undergone revisions in recent years, reflecting the evolving dynamics of life expectancy in the United States.

Social Security Administration
Source: Social Security Administration

To ensure accurate and personalized information, the Social Security website offers a retirement age calculator, providing a comprehensive breakdown of an individual’s eligibility and projected benefits based on their birth year. This valuable resource empowers individuals to make informed decisions and plan accordingly for their golden years.

Pension or retirement plans

Source: Due

These are benefits based on your employment situation. Once you reach a certain age, payments and benefits may become available to you. The age when you do, and the benefits you’ll receive, depends on the job.

Senior Housing

Provided by the Fair Housing Act for persons aged 62 years or older. Senior housing programs play a pivotal role in providing aging individuals with access to supportive living communities that promote independence, foster a sense of community, and offer essential protective measures. While state-run senior housing initiatives typically maintain a minimum age requirement of 65, some private programs in states like Pennsylvania extend their eligibility to individuals as young as 55 years old.

Senior Housing and community Housing options
Source: National Council On Aging

This variability in age criteria underscores the recognition that the need for supportive living environments may arise at different stages for different individuals, necessitating a flexible approach to meet the diverse needs of the aging population.

AAA: Enabling Aging in Place

The Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) are dedicated to empowering individuals who have reached the full retirement age to maintain their independence and continue residing in their homes rather than transitioning to retirement communities. In this endeavor, the AAA sets an eligibility age of 60 years old.

AAA: Enabling Aging in Place
Source: Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)

In the state of Pennsylvania, AAA services are available in all 67 counties, providing a comprehensive range of support, including in-home assistance, delivery services, and more. This localized approach ensures that the unique needs of the aging population within the state are met with tailored solutions and resources.

SNAP: Ensuring Nutritional Security for the Elderly

SNAP gives special discounts for food purchases for seniors aged 60 or older. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a government-funded initiative, aims to address food insecurity among the elderly population. While the eligibility age for SNAP is typically set at 60 years old, it’s important to note that this age criterion may vary across different states, reflecting the local policies and regulations governing the program’s implementation.

SNAP: Ensuring Nutritional Security for the Elderly
Source: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

In Pennsylvania, for instance, the SNAP age remains aligned with the federal guideline, maintaining an eligibility threshold of 60 years old. This consistency ensures that the state’s elderly population can access the vital nutritional support provided by the program without encountering additional barriers or discrepancies.

Benefits and Entitlements for Senior Citizens

Having an official retirement age is important. It helps determine benefits when workability and function decline in certain areas. These areas can include:

Health and wellness

Having affordable health care and coverage is important. Programs like Medicare provide free aid. Other programs like Medicaid may provide even more benefits if you’re low-income.

Financial benefits

Programs can help provide supplemental income for retirement. They can also provide extra income when the ability to work decreases. There may also be tax breaks for seniors, like standardized deductions.⁷

Lifestyle and leisure benefits. It’s widely agreed that seniors should enjoy the golden years of life. Businesses may offer senior discounts for entertainment, education, travel, dining, and more.

Conclusion

Becoming a senior citizen can signal the end of one’s working life. It also brings many benefits and legal protections for security in golden years.

Even if you plan to work well into old age, you can still receive employment protection and benefits. If you do end up retiring there are many tax breaks you can receive too.

As you approach elderly status, don’t forget to explore the benefits in store. Healthcare coverage, Social Security, and more could make a difference in twilight years.

What are you looking forward to when you become a senior citizen? What has your passage into senior citizenship been like? Be sure to comment, like, and share below!

Sources

  1. Cambridge Dictionary. Senior Citizen Definition. Cambridge University Press & Assessment. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/senior-citizen
  2. National Archives. Medicare and Medicaid Act (1965). The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/medicare-and-medicaid-act
  3. Fleming, Kevin C.; Evans, Jonathan M.; Chutka, Darryl S. A cultural and economic history of old age in America. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2003; 78(7): 914-921. Doi: 10.4065/78.7.914 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12839089/
  4. Hoyt, Jeff. The Most Common Questions Senior Citizens Have. SeniorLiving.Org. https://www.seniorliving.org/life/senior-citizen/
  5. Hartman, Rachel. When Do You Become a Senior Citizen? U.S. News & World Report L.P. https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/aging/articles/when-do-you-become-a-senior-citizen#:~:text=Receiving%20Senior%20Discounts,-If%20you%20feel&text=Some%20businesses%20start%20offering%20discounts,retailers%2C%20restaurants%20and%20grocery%20stores.
  6. Parx Home Health Care. Is The Age 55 Considered a Senior Citizen? Parx.
  7. IRS.gov. Publication 554 (2023), Tax Guide for Seniors. Internal Revenue System (IRS).
  8. USA.gov. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/age-discrimination-employment-act-1967
  9. U.S. Department of Labor. What do I need to know about… Age Discrimination. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration & Management. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/oasam/centers-offices/civil-rights-center/internal/policies/age-discrimination#:~:text=Bona%20Fide%20Occupational%20Qualifications%20(%E2%80%9CBFOQ,the%20duties%20of%20the%20position
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Adrian White

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Adrian White

Certified Herbalist

Adrian White is an international author and certified herbalist since 2012 and an organic farmer since 2009. She balances her time running Jupiter Ridge Farm (growing diverse culinary/medicinal mushrooms, vegetables, and herbs) with writing on agriculture, sustainability, herbalism, skincare and plant-based health. Her work appears on sites such as Healthline, Psych Central, and WebMD, The Guardian, Civil Eats, Rodale’s Organic Life, Good Housekeeping, and many more. Find Adrian, her farm, her work, and her projects on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn

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