When Does Old Age Begin?

Senior couple on the beach
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At what age does a person stop getting older and actually become old? When does old age begin?

When researchers at the Pew Research Center put this old age question and many others to nearly 3,000 adults, ranging in age from 18 to well over 65, the answers were revealing. Like many other questions in life, the definition of old age depends on who you ask.

As explained in Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality, the report based on the Pew study, if you average all of the responses together the average answer is clear: Old age begins at 68.

On the other hand, the average response of adults under 30 is that old age begins at 60. More than half of the adults in under 30 said that old age actually begins before people hit their 60th birthday.

As People Age, Old Age Moves Back

It's no surprise that the older people get, the longer they think it takes for a person to reach old age:

  • On average, adults between the ages of 30 and 49 think old age begins at 69.
  • People who are currently 50-64 believe old age starts at 72.
  • Responders who are 65 and older say old age begins at 74.

Responses to the question, “When does old age begin?” vary by sex as well as age, with women taking the more generous view. On average, women say old age begins at age 70, according to the Pew study. Men, on average, say that old age begins at 66.

Old Age Is for Other People

The study also shows that only one thing is certain when it comes to old age: The majority of people agree that none of this applies to them.

Among the old age survey respondents who were 65-74, only 21 percent said they feel old. Even among those who are 75 and older—an age that many of those surveyed would call “old”—just 35 percent said they feel old.

Maybe it’s true, as the old saying goes, that you’re as young as you feel.

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