The term senior citizen is meant to convey the distinction of those who are elders in our society. The actual age that defines a senior citizen can vary depending on where and how the term is used. Some organizations consider age 50 to be a senior while others may define the age at 60 or higher.
Major Government Programs
There are numerous governmental programs a senior citizen can take advantage of as she ages. One of the biggest programs is social security. However, there is also Medicare, which is a form of insurance coverage for elderly patients. The government also offers food assistance programs to elderly citizens. When it comes to legislation, the term senior citizen depends on the program.
Social Security Age
Many U.S. workers typically qualify for full benefits from Social Security at the age of 66 to 67 depending on your year of birth. The majority of workers must be 67 to retire, and for that reason, many people consider 67 to be the "real age" of a senior citizen. However, the eligible age to receive full Social Security benefits depends on your year of birth. For example:
- If you were born in 1943-1954, you are not eligible to receive full retirement benefits until you reach the age of 66.
- If you were born between 1955 to 1959, you are eligible to receive full retirement benefits at two month increments during your 66th year. For example, the age for 1955 is 66 years and 2 months, 1956 is 66 years and 4 months, and so forth.
- If you were born in 1960 or later, you are not eligible to receive full retirement benefits until you reach the age of 67.
Age considered a senior citizen: 67 (if born in 1960 or later)
The age milestone of 65 is important for Medicare benefits. Medicare is a government program that provides health insurance coverage for those over age 65. Benefits are divided into four parts: A, B, C and D. The application process needs to start four months before the senior turns age 65 in order to get coverage starting from your birthday.
Age considered a senior citizen: 65
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has special rules for elderly people requiring food assistance. This government program has determined the age of 60 to be the age of a senior citizen. There are income limits and each state has different rules. For example, some states count cars as assets while others do not. Elderly people get medical deductions and other expenses considered into their incomes as well.
Age considered a senior citizen: 60
Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs)
The Area Agencies on Aging are community-based programs that make it possible for senior citizens, aged 60 and older, to remain in their homes for longer. This idea was coined "age in place" where people can stay in their homes and communities as they become more frail. A local AAA might deliver food, offer caregiver programs, provide community centers for aging, and even provide chore assistance.
Age considered a senior citizen: 60
The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Depending on your state, you may be required to renew your driver's license through the Division of Motor Vehicles more frequently as you age. This is to prevent drivers with poor vision, perception, and reflexes from driving on the road. Every state has rules and regulations. An example is the state of Florida, who makes drivers, at the age of 79, come in-person for license renewals because the driver must past a vision test.
Age considered a senior citizen: 79
Definition of Senior Citizen According to Business Programs
Depending on an individual retirement plan or association affiliations, there are a number of private business programs a senior citizen can take part in at certain ages.
401(k)s, IRAs and Roth IRAs
If you have an IRA or 401(k), there is a required minimum distribution which you must take out at the age of 70 and a half years of age. You must take out a certain amount of money on a regular basis based on a formula for a required minimum distribution (RMD). Every person's amount is calculated based on his age, amount in savings, and life expectancy. Failure to take the proper withdrawal amount could lead to an excise tax penalty.
Age considered a senior citizen: 70.5
One of the first organizations to recognize senior citizens is the AARP. Member eligibility begins at age 50 and by joining this association you receive discounts on various services such as travel, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, online merchants, etc. Membership with AARP also opens many resources of information, publications, online seminars and access to website articles. This organization is a powerful lobby for senior and political issues.
Age considered a senior citizen: 50
Car Insurance Companies
For car insurance companies, the average age to be considered a senior citizen is 65. This designation often comes with an increase in premiums, just like younger drivers have. (A general piece of advice is to shop around to determine when your car insurance company designates a person to be a senior citizen).
Average age considered a senior citizen: 70
Retail Stores and Restaurants
- Denny's has a menu just for over age 55 and the AARP card will get 15 percent off any item.
- Ross Stores offers 10% off on every Tuesday to those 55 and older.
- Hertz offers a 50+ car rental program featuring discounts up to 35% off.
- Amtrak offers a 15 percent discount on tickets for most train routes for those at age 62.
- Marriott offer 15 percent discount on their room rates for seniors over age 62.
- Southwest Airlines offers a discounted fare for travelers 65 years and older. In addition to potential discounts, all senior travel tickets are fully refundable.
Support Senior Citizens at All Ages
Senior citizens can be defined in many ways and at various ages. Take advantage of all the senior benefits that are available and prepare for the important milestones that lay ahead. There is no cut and dry definition of what makes a senior citizen, but staying informed about resources available can improve quality of life while also saving money. Life isn't so bad when you are a senior! You get to take advantage of discounts galore.