What Is The Difference Between Elderly And Senior?

Jacob Reno
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Elderly or Senior?

Have you heard your grandparents called both of these things? Have you heard the same for your parents or yourself? If you have, you might have asked yourself, what is the difference between elderly and senior?

The correct term is "senior citizen." The original definition for elderly was a person who was in his or her declining years. It meant the person had entered into an age where he or she might be expected to need care or assistance.

Now both elder and elderly may refer to a person of advanced years. In addition, elderly is sometimes only used for a person older than 65. But senior citizen is generally accepted in all uses and circumstances.

When Does Old Age Begin?

Statistics about aging is fascinating. What makes this information even more interesting is that the information shed light on how our life expectancy is influenced by the country we live in, our gender, income level, and even our race.

According to the latest estimates, average life expectancy at birth for males in the United States is 76.4 years, while the average life expectancy for females in America is 80.8 years.

That is an increase of 5.2 years for males and 4.4 years for females since 1980. Compare these figures with those of Japan, where average life expectancy is 83.8 years for males and 87.7 years for females.

If this trend continues, and if our life expectancy rates continue to increase, our senior population will become a sometimes invisible but still very influential force. It is estimated that one in five U.S. residents will be at least 65 years old in 2030, and one in ten will be at least 80 years old.

The way we treat our seniors, and plan for the future, has the potential to affect us all.

For example, using the earlier example of the average life expectancy of 86 for an American female, if she lives to be 100 years old, she will have 23 years of life expectancy remaining.

That means that if we add a 23-year-old who begins to pay into the system at age 23, she will retire at the age of 46.

What Are The Effects Of Age Stereotypes?

Do you remember when you were young, how your parents and teachers discouraged you from eating certain foods that were considered bad for anyone’s health? Or how they told you that you’d regret being overweight when you got older?

What they were really doing was discouraging age stereotypes … and that is why this habit becomes a problem.

When you stop and think about it, they were right. You’ll have a hard time getting a job if you’re overweight. You’ll have a hard time staying healthy if you eat too much sugar. But they were also wrong.

For decades, experts told us that being overweight was a good thing. “Be happy that you’re not skinny,” they said. “You’re fat and you should be happy to be fit.”

Now, we know better.

Now we know that being overweight is far more likely to make you sick and die earlier.

Now we know that the same healthy eating habits we should have adopted at 20, we should also have adopted at 50.

Well, that’s not quite right. We really should be adopting these healthy behaviors at 10 years old.

Bottom Line

The terms elderly and senior are often mistakenly used interchangeably. But there are differences between the two. While there are no concrete definitions, people may choose to use “elderly” to describe a person who’s in his or her late 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s, whereas the term “senior” may be used to describe people in their 50s and 60s.

The terms “elderly” and “senior” both imply age, but they don’t necessarily denote retirement. Some seniors are retired and some seniors are still working.

Although the terms are most often used to describe people, the terms may also be used to denote inanimate objects. For instance, a nursing home may be referred to as “elderly housing.”