May 11, 2023

When Do I Become a Senior?

21_12_2022 when am I senior
Whether you are considered a 'senior' depends on many different factors, said Michael Preston. [Source: iStock]

I often wonder when I became a senior; my first recollection was the euphoria of becoming a senior student at school, no longer a primary school child but a young adult. What age makes a person a senior citizen; the number would appear to be fluid in different situations. 

Some places offer discounts to people over 50, with others restricting entry after 65. When does a person become a senior citizen, and who decides or dictates what we are to be labelled?

Ever since the 14th century, the word senior has been used in the English language to represent either an older person or one of authority. Derived from the Latin adjective of the same spelling (meaning older).

The plain answer is that it depends on so many factors, whilst the number is not set-in-stone around the world, different cultures enforce the age limit at various stages of our lives. 

Once upon a time the “old Age Pension” began at 65, when life expectancy was limited compared to the life expectancy of today. 

If we lead a healthy, active life, and are free from stress, anxiety or worry, we will live a long and fruitful life, but that is never always the case.

There are residential housing projects that encourage seniors from 50 upwards to apply, so it does depend on the situation. The magic number that determines being a senior could well be interchangeable.

Ageing is a time of reflection, frailty, and gradual decline into the end of life. On the other hand, it could be a time of rejoicing, freedom, and a time to explore some of the activities one was unable to pursue during our working life.

Unfortunately for some, this time can feel like the end of productive life and lead to loneliness, depression, and financial decline.

Never would I suggest taking up gardening or mah-jong upon retiring from working life, instead, I would challenge a person to sit down and decide what they would like to do within their own financial and limited constraints. 

The definition of happiness varies from one person to the next. Deciding if you want to pursue a creative adventure or explore the world depends on the individual. 

Being proud and honoured to have reached adulthood hood and beyond into the senior years is something many people never have the privilege of experiencing.

Older adults are often the subject of negative advertising and stereotyping, often portrayed as being “past their sell-by date” or “over the hill”. Conversely, beautiful young people are what the world needs and signify vitality, energy, and life. 

This type of negativity can harm one’s self-esteem, which can lead to depression and despair as we age and become more and more invisible in society.

A great deal of work into intergenerational programs has started to bridge the gap between people from all age groups. Laughter, social interaction and happiness have proven to be important in ageing well. Our attitude toward life and the people around us play a significant part in our well-being and overall quality of life expectancy.

General health and cognition have a considerable part to play in how people function; as we age, so do our bodies, and our hearing, eyesight, and memory all start to decline. All of us service our cars, so why not service our bodies?

Regular maintenance of the heart, brain and body helps us to keep fit and agile. When we feel healthy and are free from disease, and debt, life can be rewarding, and we can enjoy the gift of living well. The actual chronological number we observe every year on our birthday provides us with another step towards the inevitable, so why not enjoy every moment?

My Great Grandmother lived to 102, she always told me to “live every day as if it’s your first, not your last”. That way you have another day to wake up to.

Another great quote from Writer Henry James said three things were important in life: “The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind”. Doing acts of kindness and paying forward has always been my motto, my parents held these beliefs, which provided me with the values I have today.

Those values and beliefs I have passed on to my children. Kindness is the one thing that is freely given but not always received.

So what does “old” really mean? Ultimately, each of us must answer that question, attitude towards our age plays a vital role in how we regard ourselves.

Is it the number of years we spend on Earth that defines us or is the person we become over a lifetime?

So the magic number that determines being a senior could well be interchangeable. One of my favourite sayings from Walt Disney is “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever”.

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