Senior Age Range Explained: When Older Adults Are Eligible for Different Programs

We're breaking down the (often inconsistent) senior citizen age range so you can leave no benefit stone unturned.

Updated January 28, 2024
Three senior women talking in garden

From the age you're allowed to pull out of your Roth IRA to the birthday you have to pass to get your social security, senior citizen age ranges are inconsistent and confusing. But if you're ready to cash in on your senior discounts at the grocery store, it's helpful to know what the parameters are. For all you know, you could be several years away from most senior benefits or they could be just around the corner!

Prepare for this confident and carefree stage of your life by getting to the bottom of what ages are considered "senior" and the cool benefits that come with hitting that milestone. 

4 Government Programs for Seniors & When They Start 

There are many excellent government programs for seniors. Of course, social security is the first that comes to most people's minds, but there are also Medicare and food and housing assistance programs as well. 

Social Security

For older adults, the eligible age to receive Social Security benefits is 62. Benefits begin when you retire from your job with 40 credits. 

You earn one Social Security credit for every $1,730 you make, but you can only earn 4 credits for the year. In essence, you can reach your 40 credits by working a full-time job for 10 years. 


Turning 65 is super important when it comes to healthcare because that's when Medicare benefits kick in. This program has four parts — A, B, C, and D — which include hospital assistance, medical insurance, and medication coverage. 

To better understand Medicare and how to enroll, you can enlist a State Health Insurance Assistant Program (SHIP) representative to help you. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP considers anyone 60 years old or over a senior, and eligible (considering other state requirements that might be in play) for monthly assistance. Specifically, SNAP works by supplementing your income to help you buy groceries and maintain a nutritional diet. 

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)

Area Agencies on Aging are community-based programs to help people who are 60+ remain in their homes for longer. This helps folks "age in place" and sets them up with other services — like food delivery or caregiving — so they can live independently for as long as possible. 

Reach out to your state government to get more information about which AAA services are available to you. 

Fast Fact

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, the average retirement age in the U.S. is 61. 

How Business Programs Define "Senior" Status 

Senior couple outdoors

Retirement plans and investments geared to support you in retirement have different limits on who they believe qualifies as a 'senior.' 

401(k)s, IRAs, & Roth IRAs

You may begin taking out some of your retirement investments at the age of 59½ without penalty. If you haven't by the time you're 70, then you're required to start withdrawing the funds at that time.

Fast Fact

If you haven't been investing for retirement, you're not alone. According to Retire Guide, about 55% of Americans don't feel like they're saving enough.

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

One of the first organizations to recognize seniors is the AARP — and this recognition begins at 50! Inching up to your 50th birthday, prepare to get mail from them (along with a reminder for your first colonoscopy). And while you might not feel quite like a senior by 50, the member discounts make qualifying worthwhile. 

Car Insurance Companies

Some car insurance companies take a conservative approach to the aging population, only altering their policies when people reach their early to mid-70s. This means you may see your car insurance costs go up later in life

Related: Happy Retirement!: 50 Ways to Congratulate a Retiree

Shops, Servies, & Restaurants

To give you an idea of the varied businesses that offer discounts for seniors, here are a few to look into. Sometimes senior discounts aren't posted, so check in with the staff at your favorite businesses to see if they have anything available. 

Age-Inclusive Phrasing That's Changing the Game 

From boomers to zoomers and everything in between, our language keeps changing. As we embrace new perspectives and grow to understand people's unique experiences, our language evolves to better support the people using it. Senior citizen isn't just a dated term — it comes with a lot of cultural baggage. Break free from the senior citizen label with these new ones that are changing the game. 

  • Seniors
  • People over 65
  • Folks of retirement age
  • Retirees 
  • Older folks
  • Older person/people 
  • Seasoned adults
  • Distinguished people

Senior Status Is Just a Number 

The last thing you should be doing is feeling anxious about hitting 50, 55, or 65 because of that shift into "seniorhood." Age is just a number, and entering that older bracket doesn't have to ruin your year. After all, you wouldn't sniff your nose at a delicious aged wine or block of cheddar cheese. 

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Senior Age Range Explained: When Older Adults Are Eligible for Different Programs