The local news station carried a story the other night about a home invasion in a neighboring town. Two men had brazenly entered the house in broad daylight, beating the homeowner before making off with money and valuables. That kind of thing doesn't happen around her much so they made quite the deal of it including having a reporter live on the scene despite the fact that it was the 10pm edition and the robbery had occurred at midday. "Elderly homeowner beaten in home invasion!" was the tease at the top of the hour, and they must have used the word "elderly" half a dozen times in the coverage. Then came the clip of his interview which started out with "64-year-old John Doe..."
Wait....the guy who's been assaulted is 64? And they're calling him "elderly?" Surely not because that hits too close to home.
So how old is elderly? The answer, apparently, is it depends. For people aged 45 and younger, the birthday that marks when you move from middle-aged to elderly is the 61st, at least according to a recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted the The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. Hrmmmph...what do those young whippersnappers know. They're hardly dry behind the ears.
And that's where the rub comes in. The Pew Research people learned that most adults over the age of 50 feel at least 10 years younger than their age. One-third of those between 65-74 felt 10 to 19 years younger, and one-sixth of those 75 and older felt as much as 20 years younger than their age. I like their survey results better; their respondents said old age starts at 68. Even better are the results of respondents over the age of 65. They fixed old age as beginning at 75. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it.
Those senior citizen discount programs aren't going to tell you where one slips from the rolls of the young and active and into the "elderly" category either. Some start at 60 or 65, but some of them go as low as 55 or even 50. Heck, some places grant a senior discount just by looking at you. Apparently earning some gray hairs does have it's benefits.
Age, and particular old age, is a slipperly concept to define. After all, it's just a number. But if you want to win friends and influence people, don't be calling no 64-year-old elderly. Just saying.