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When you hear the term senior citizen, what comes to mind? Does a person have to be over a certain age to be a senior? How does life change for people when they are considered a senior citizen? If you are reaching the later stage of life, these are likely to be some of the questions you have asked. To provide clarification here is everything you need to know about becoming a senior citizen in the US.

What is a Senior Citizen?

Senior citizens are also known as elderly persons or simply as seniors. Categorically, a senior citizen is a social demographic based on age. Someone who is 35, for example, cannot be a senior. Being a senior citizen typically means that a person is at the age in which they retire from work. They are transitioned from a working adult to a retiree.

What Does It Mean to Be a Senior Citizen?

Culturally, a senior citizen is someone who is slowing down in their life. They have accomplished raising a family, having a career, or any other monumental feat in their adult life. An elderly person in the US is typically thought to be wiser or more experienced.

Economically, a senior requires financial support either in the form of retirement funds or savings or with the support of a caregiver. Since a senior citizen can no longer work they need to have someone or some account that can help to cover their expenses. As a result, seniors are often dependent on others for their welfare.

Medically, a senior citizen is more apt to have health problems, which are age-related. Loss of mobility, hearing and vision are the most common health complaints. However, elderly individuals can also be more likely to suffer chronic pain and illnesses, which require aid and support from outside sources.

At What Age Are You Considered a Senior Citizen?

The age of a senior citizen varies according to the source. For example, according to Medicare, a senior is 65 years old or older. However, Social Security benefits are eligible for seniors starting at 62, even though the Social Security Office reports that 67 is the age of retirement. Yet if you are 55 and you visit an Arby’s or McDonald’s you can get a senior discount. By the way, Burger King requires you to be at least 60.

As such, being a senior citizen may be based on your age, but it is not a specific age. In general, however, once you turn 55 you start to enter the senior age demographic. By the time you are 65 you reach the most common age for retirement from your job. However, an increasing number of senior citizens are working after 65, so retirement can no longer be a key factor in becoming a senior. It can be safe to say that after 65 you are designated a senior, regardless of your working status.

What are Senior Citizen Discounts and Why do These Exist?

As noted, many fast food restaurants offer senior citizen discounts. However, that is just the beginning. Most sit-down restaurants and grocery stores also offer discount days for seniors. In addition, you can get a discount on airfare, sports tickets, hotel accommodations, and movie theater tickets. Hair salons, tire service centers, and cell phone companies also offer senior citizen discounts. You can also become a member of the AARP, aka the American Association of Retired Persons. The AARP provides members-only discounts on everything from car rentals and resort stays to pet care and technology.

So why are there so many discounts for elderly persons? Seniors are on fixed incomes and often with limited assets that are to last for an unknown number of years. Yet seniors need to be able to live a healthy, happy life in retirement. To help seniors afford both the essentials and the extras, companies offer discounts for this age group.

What are Senior Citizen Living and Care Options?

In terms of senior citizen living and care options, there are three main types to consider. Seniors typically live at home, either by themselves or with a caregiver, or in a senior living apartment or retirement community. Within these three types of housing are varying levels of care that are aimed at meeting the needs of seniors.

A senior citizen who is able to live on their own at home requires the lowest level of care. They can manage their day-to-day activities including meals, transportation, and bill paying. Most often they have minimal health problems and are active seniors who may work part or full time outside of the home. In some instances, these seniors will have caregivers who live with them. This might be a relative or live-in nurse.

In most situations, but not all, a caregiver moves in with a senior citizen when they start to have trouble with daily activities. This would be the type of living in which a live-in nurse is involved. A live-in nurse typically stays with a senior during the day, while leaving them alone overnight. They do not live with the senior full time.

If a senior is either unable or unwilling to live alone, they will typically transition to a senior apartment within a retirement community. These communities are highly diverse and include specifications, such as LGBTQ, golfing, luxury, religious, or military veteran senior communities. Within these communities, all of the residents are seniors over 55 who are active in some capacity. Seniors live in their own apartments or single dwelling houses within the retirement community.

They are provided with specialized services that allow for a low-to-medium level of care. For example, there may be an onsite medical clinic, physician offering home visits, and routine health checks. More importantly, within an active senior retirement community, elderly citizens are provided with a network that allows them to socialize. Being alone in one’s home is often the first issue of living as a senior. By moving into a retirement community, seniors can overcome this roadblock and continue to thrive in a supportive environment.

A retirement home includes an assisted living facility and a nursing home. This type of senior living is reserved for seniors who cannot handle day-to-day activities and care for themselves. In addition, these types of centers are for individuals who require a more advanced level of care. They may have loss of mobility or be diagnosed with dementia or chronic illnesses. They require 24/7 medical care and observation to ensure they do not suffer due to neglect or lack of proper medical providers.

What are Some Financial Matters for Senior Citizens to Consider?

In terms of finances, seniors are at the end of their working career. In most instances, seniors retire from work once they turn 65. However, as seniors are aging more effectively, living longer and maintaining active lifestyles, there is the opportunity for seniors to continue working. This also stems from their financial situation. If a senior has planned accordingly by saving for retirement throughout their adulthood, then they should have the funds available for retiring. If they did not plan ahead, then working is likely a necessity.

There are the options for taking Social Security benefits and getting Medicare health insurance as a senior, both of which help with senior finances. However, most of the time the SS benefits are not enough to live off of. In addition, Medicare coverage does cost a senior each month; it is not free health care coverage.

What are Some Legal Matters for Senior Citizens to Consider?

Legal issues that arise for senior citizens often involve three areas. For starters, a senior will want to write out a legal will dictating who will receive what upon their death. In addition, a senior citizen should determine an executor of their estate. This person becomes responsible for making legal, medical, financial, and other such decisions for an elderly person if they become incapacitated or no longer have sound judgment. An executor is also the person who becomes responsible for financial decisions for seniors who are placed in assisted living facilities or nursing homes and no longer able to make daily decisions.

Finally, a senior should speak with a lawyer if they feel they are being treated unfairly or discriminated against. As an elderly person, issues that often come up are age discrimination in the workplace, as well as elderly abuse by a caregiver. Having an attorney that can be reached for legal advice or protection can help a senior live a happier, healthier life.

What Are Senior Citizen Health Insurance Options?

Insurance coverage for seniors ranges from private health insurance coverage to public health care. If a senior citizen has private health insurance from an employer or third-party agent, then this should be sufficient to cover most health care needs. However, for seniors who have retired from work they may be without health insurance. This is where Medicare comes into the scene.

Medicare is a federally provided social health insurance program that is open to all seniors 65 and older. Once a senior turns 65 they have an enrollment period of seven months. Note that this seven-month period starts three months before a senior is 65. For instance, if a senior is turning 65 in March, they can start enrollment in Medicare in January of that year, and they have until June. The month of their birthday is included as one month of the seven months. For seniors who enroll later, they are subject to a penalty.

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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