There is no official age at which you become a “senior citizen.” The reality is, most people over 60 and the overwhelming majority of people between 50 and 60 don’t think of themselves as “senior.” They don’t feel old. They may not be eligible for senior citizen benefits, or may have chosen to defer them.
A survey by Del Webb found that the age at which a majority of people start to think of themselves as senior citizens is 64, but only 56 percent of people surveyed thought so even then. On the other hand, many older people are willing to accept the label when being a senior citizen qualifies them for free services and discounts.
Senior citizens are entitled to more affordable healthcare in the form of Medicare starting the first day of the month that they turn 65. Seniors qualify for full Social Security at age 67. (There are some seniors who qualified a few months earlier.) They can collect benefits without reductions for the amount of money they earn by continuing to work. And there is a variety of other benefits available to seniors at different ages:
- AARP. Benefits from senior associations like AARP start at age 50. AARP offers insurance plans, financing options, travel discounts, bargain shopping, a points program, and a lot more.
- AARP members also get useful information in emails on an almost-daily basis.
- Senior housing. Reduced-rent senior housing becomes available at ages 55 to 62, depending on the rules the project adopted when it received its financing. The federal government’s Housing for Older Persons Act sets aside housing specifically for senior citizens of certain ages. Senior housing makes it easier for older adults to meet people their own age, and accommodates shared living arrangements that reduce costs. There are income limits for these kinds of housing projects.
- Retirement plans. Your IRA, 401(k), or pension plan usually imposes a 10-percent penalty, on top of any federal and state income tax, when you make a withdrawal before the age of 59-1/2. Once you reach that age, there are no penalties, and you only pay applicable income taxes (or no taxes in the case of a Roth IRA). Once you reach the age of 70-1/2, however, you must begin withdrawing money from these accounts, or you have to pay a penalty.
- Medical care. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, seniors may be eligible for assisted medical transportation from churches and community service groups. The age of eligibility varies, but it is usually around 62. These programs help elders make one or two trips a week to go to the doctor or get groceries, usually in private cars driven by volunteers.
For many people over 50, various health issues become barriers to transportation. You may get around on a scooter or a wheelchair, for instance. You can wheel down to a bus stop and get on board for a ride to another bus stop, if there is room, but this service won’t take care of your door-to-door transportation needs. It won’t take you anywhere off-route.
There are public services that take you to other places that you can reserve in advance, but they can’t help you if you need to be transported on a gurney, and they don’t operate 24/7.
Around the Sound specializes in providing exactly the transportation seniors need. We can take you to an anniversary celebration, a wedding, a reunion, a park, or the airport, and we do non-emergency medical transportation, too. Our licensed, trained, and caring drivers can get you where you need to go on time and in comfort.
This post was written by Steve Hutchins