When does old age begin?

Old age means different things for different people - for some, it's an absolute, perhaps when you turn 70; for others it's all relative and you're only as old as you feel. That means you could be 86 but still active, perhaps continuing to work, and maintaining a positive attitude, keeping old age at arm's length. One thing's for sure, though: the longer we're expected to live, the older someone has to be in order to be considered 'old'.

In days past it was largely accepted that old age centred around retirement age when pensions were drawn (and in 2009 a survey found the average response was old age began at 68), but a new study of 2,000 over 40s found that old age now begins at 80.That's a huge jump, and the researchers think this is the result of changed perception from increasing numbers of older people delaying retirement and remaining active. It's not just people who can't afford to retire early who are staying at work - these days we witness celebs like Clint Eastwood and Bruce Forsyth continuing to work, long past the time they could have taken their pensions.

A spokesman from PayingTooMuch.com, who conducted the study, stated that for many people "retirement is the start of a whole new chapter and pensioners are travelling the world, taking up new hobbies and in some cases, leading more active and exciting lifestyles than when they were younger."

It looks as though this perception isn't going away, as it has just been reported that in 2013 there were over 100,000 more over 60s in work than in 2011, and 25.6% more over 60s in senior positions. The average income rose 6.1% in the same period too, climbing to £17,250. There are a number of potential reasons for people staying in work, such as enjoying the work, feeling strong enough to remain in work, enjoying the company of co-workers, or lacking a large enough pension to retire. There may also be some employers keen to employ the over 60s because of their decades of experience and acquired skills, which could make them a more appropriate employee than a younger person.

But there is also evidence that older people are enjoying life outside of work more than they used to, with a study claiming that the "average retiree enjoys three holidays a year - and is fitter than they were while working". Over half of the people involved state they regularly hike, swim or cycle, more so than they did in their 20s, while 10% have even started studying again in order to keep their minds active. More than three-quarters of participants try to stay as active and busy as they can, rather than seeing retirement as a time to put their feet up. Findings such as these indicate positive changes to how retirement is viewed, with people realising that they still have a third of their life to look forward to and enjoy.

Public perceptions of those in their 60s and above continue to be challenged and reshaped, with reports such as the above and the recent television show "OAPs Behaving Badly", which showed the hedonism some pensioners seek out as they redefine what it means to be elderly.

Increasingly, it seems that life after 60, and even after retirement, is seen as an opportunity to enjoy life rather than be confined to the armchair. The breadth of activities people are engaging in, from work to travelling, highlights that continued activity is for many people a choice rather than a necessity.

What does old age mean to you? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

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The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article. For our latest information and news, please see our articles section: https://www.portafina.co.uk/whats-new

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