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Senior Citizen

With the oldest of the Baby Boomers turning 65 this year, the question of when one becomes a senior citizen is a topic of interest to a new generation.

senior couple

Last year, about half of 64-year-olds responding to a 2010 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey said the term “senior citizen” does not apply to them because they don’t “feel” like a senior. Instead they describe themselves as still being active and young at heart.

In the same survey, 96 percent of 50-year-olds, the youngest of the Baby Boomers, also rejected the term.

The 64-year-olds who embraced the term did so primarily for economic reasons, because they are now eligible for senior discounts.

Interestingly, when asked to pinpoint when “old age” begins, both the oldest and youngest Boomers selected ages well beyond them.

The youngest boomers said a person becomes old at age 78, while the oldest boomers said old age begins at 80.

What is a senior citizen?

So what does the term “senior citizen” mean, and when exactly does an individual become one? The answer varies widely.

The term first was coined during a 1938 political campaign as a euphemism for “old person”. It now enjoys widespread usage in the common vernacular, legislation, and business.

Some dictionaries define “senior citizen” as a person over the age of 65. In everyday speech, the term is often shortened to “senior.”

According to legislation, the term applies to the age at which pensions, social security or medical benefits for the elderly become available.

In this country, traditionally people have been eligible to retire with full Social Security benefits at age 65.

In business applications, the term “senior” often is applied to special discounts and customer loyalty programs which vary by age and store.