At what age are you ‘old’?
“When does someone become ‘old’?” asked Joe Pinsker. That’s become a very sensitive question in a youth-oriented society in which “old” suggests “deterioration and obsolescence.” In a 2016 Marist poll, only 16 percent of those over 60 said they thought that someone 65—the traditional demarcation line for senior citizens—qualifies as “old.” Many of today’s 60- and 70-somethings are vigorous and relatively healthy, and hate such traditional terms as “senior” and “elderly” and trite euphemisms such as “golden years.” That’s why the terms “older adult” and “older people” are becoming the norm by default, mostly because they seem “to irritate the smallest number of people.” These terms are imprecise—“older than whom, exactly?”—and there is as yet no precise age at which someone is deemed “older” instead of middle-aged. Gerontologists say that it isn’t until the mid-70s that most of us truly slow down and become more likely to suffer from chronic disease. People who hate to be called “old” or even “older” aren’t delusional—they simply “don’t want to be denied their right to have ambitions and plans for the stretch of their life that’s still ahead of them.”