Longer life expectancy has led to baby boomers living much longer than previous generations, leading academics at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, Austria to suggest we should measure old age by how long people have left to live rather than their age.
The researchers found that boomers should still be considered middle aged into their mid-70’s as old age should be defined as having fewer than 15 years left of living.
“What we think of as old has changed over time, and it will need to continue changing in the future as people live longer, healthier lives. 200 years ago, a 60-year-old would be a very old person. Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue is middle aged,” said Sergei Scherbov, World Population Program Deputy Director, at IIASA.
The importance of categorizing where exactly “old age” begins is important for policy makers as it is an indicator for increased dependence, disability and a decrease in labour force participation.
This is why the Abbott Government has been proposing increasing the pension age to 70 and overhauling the retirement income system.
The report authors argue that economic projection must take into account the 65-year-olds of today who are more mentally agile and healthy than ever before.
Alan Walker, professor of social policy and social gerontology at the University of Sheffield said, “For many people, 70 is the new 50 and signifies the quiet revolution that has taken place in longevity.’
‘However I would not want to pin an arbitrary age, such as 74, because there is such huge diversity in later life. There is a massive nine year difference in average life expectancy between the poor and the affluent and a shocking 19 year difference in healthy life expectancy.”