What Is The Difference Between Elderly And Senior?

Everybody is aging, right from the moment of birth. The process of aging is a biological reality that is far beyond human control. The society at large has found terms to describe those that have aged more than others. The words, elderly and senior, are despicably alike and, in most cases, used when they should not be. 

The question then is what is the difference between elderly and senior?

Except for when one digs up the definitions, there is not much variance between these two terms.

There is more to age than just a number; hence you need to understand the concepts associated with aging and people’s perception of it. So what do people generally understand?

  • Definitions and implications
  • Beginning of old age
  • Stereotypes

Elderly or Senior?

A Senior citizen is a retired person who is at least 60 or 65 years of age. The term is commonly used in a government setting to orientation programs, claims, and cases related to this target age. This term has lost its ability to identify people beyond official words. Generally, retirees are categorized as senior citizens. On the other hand, a senior in the workplace is mostly seen as wise, experienced, and worthy of respect.

 The elderly means the stage where a person is nearing or is above his longevity age. In other words, the elderly are in a radical phase of life, well past middle age. Elderly is also equal to old, or an older person. The term is often used in a concerned or compassionate sense, but it frequently carries implications of poor health or weakened capacity. 

Some people don’t like being called elderly because they believe it implies a sign of weakness or completely old. However, the elderly are often recognized for their knowledge and wisdom. And it is also a respectable term in many groups like the church and tribal elders.

In most cases, the vague difference between elderly and senior is that; Elderly indicates fragility while senior is too restricted.

When Does Old Age Begin?

Conventionally, old age marked the last stage in the human life cycle. You were termed old when you were nearing your death. But here is the problem, that definition is not practical because no one knows for sure when they are going to die.

The fact is there is no general settlement on the age at which someone is considered old. However, there are a few universally known ways to define old age:

By chronology: This is a way of determining age considering the number of years that have elapsed since the birth of a person. However, the exact amount can differ according to different settings. Senior citizen discounts are given at age 50 or 65. In one country, the retirement age might be 50 but above 60 in another. So it can be tricky describing old age by years of age.

By social role: Defining old age by social role is when you become old when your children have children of their own, retire from your workforce, or start receiving social assistance forms. In some areas where the official retirement age is pointless, one is considered old when you stop doing vigorous tasks and instead get a more relaxed role. Moreover, these factors are not realistic because you can become grandparents at a much younger or older age.

 By physical or health status: In most cases, defining someone’s age by their physical appearance or health status means they have wrinkles, grey hair, mental failure, or experience physical weakness. However, it would be best if you did not assume someone is old by how they look or that their health status is because of old age.

 Everyone has different concepts about when old age begins and what it is.

What Are The Effects Of Age Stereotypes?

Stereotypes can have a significant influence on the choices people make and the approaches they adopt. They can even affect people’s physical and mental health. Old age is regularly considered as a time of solitude, infirmity, and failure. It has also been termed as a time of self-determination, happiness, and prosperity. Every person has exceptional experiences of their own.

The negative aging stereotypes make the older adults internalize the messages and unintentionally make them come true. Words like “insensible” and “useless” can cause blood stress levels to rise. Seniors with negative self-stereotypes concerning age do not accept medical treatment that would lengthen their life.

Positive age stereotypes do not always have an envisioned effect. A study showed that being open to positive age stereotypes made people feel older. This is probably because the participants thought of themselves as much younger than their chronological age. Therefore, after being challenged with positive reports of aging, they saw their age more accurately.

So, both positive and negative stereotypes can impact people’s health and behaviors differently.

Bottom Line

Language is a crucial aspect when it comes to aging. The words we use to label older members of society reveal our vision of their abilities and contributions. The captions with which we identify our parents and grandparents say a lot about them but for us too.

English as a language lacks a suitable, positive vocabulary for accrediting aging in a way that knows the wisdom and strength. The words we use both mirror and shape our attitudes.

 It’s essential to bear in mind that any word can have positive or negative repercussions, depending on the situation and cultural standards.

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