What do we perceive is ‘old’? It depends how old you are

Ffion White

by , PR Manager

29 Apr 2024 /  

Apr 2024


New research by PensionBee reveals a lack of clear consensus among Brits on the definition of ‘old’ age. The most common view (15%) from the nationally representative survey of 1,000 people, is that age 70 to 74 represents a tipping point into the golden years. However, this opinion varies greatly based on age, suggesting that the adage: ‘you are as old as you feel’, could be true.

Young adults think it’s your sixties - and so do people approaching or just in their sixties

The most common perception among (20%) young adults (age 18-24) and those near or at retirement (age 55-64) (23%) is that ‘old’ age begins around 60-64, despite this preceding both the average retirement age of 65 and the State Pension age which currently stands at 66.

Early mid-life crisis?

Surprisingly, early midlife adults (35-44) considered themselves to be ‘old’, with nearly a fifth (19%) stating that they perceive 40-44 onwards to be ‘old’, and 13% stating that they perceive 35-39 onwards as ‘old’, despite 36 being the age many people buy their first home.

Does being retired make you old?

Nearly a third (32%) of adults who’ve already reached the average retirement age of 65 believe that ‘old’ age starts at age 70-74 - when many people are well into retirement.

The gender gap

On average, most men (17%) feel age 70-74 onwards counts as ‘old’. In contrast, most women (13%), who tend to live, on average, four years longer than men, think being aged 85-90 is ‘old’.

North vs South divide

The most common response for adults living in the North of England was that ‘old’ age begins at 60-64 onwards (13%), whereas those living in the South believed it didn’t start until age 70-74 onwards (15%). This may be attributed to the fact that Brits living in the South tend to live three years longer on average than those living in the North.

Relationship status

Almost a fifth (16%) of UK adults who are married or in a domestic partnership responded that ‘old’ age begins at 70-74 onwards. For those who are single, the perception of ‘old’ age starts much earlier, with 50-54 being the most common response by this group (14%).

Becky O’Connor, Director of Public Affairs at PensionBee, commented:

“It appears you really are as old as you feel.

“This research suggests it’s hard to find consensus on what age people consider counts as being ‘old’ these days. Many people who are approaching mid-life think that they are almost ‘old’ already. On the other hand, many people already in their retirement years have pushed back their definition of ‘old’ to much later. Perhaps this is a sign they feel younger at heart.

“Longevity is increasing, so you’d expect that the age people think of as ‘old’ will increase over time. Perception about your age can influence whether we keep working or choose to retire earlier or later and may impact what decisions we make to plan for retirement.”

Table 1: By age - ‘What age do you consider to be ‘old’?’

Age group Top Response %
18-24 60-64 20%
25-34 30-34 18%
35-44 40-44 19%
45-54 50-54 25%
55-64 60-64 23%
65+ 70-74 32%

Source: PensionBee, April 2024. 1,000 UK adults (nat rep). All numbers have been rounded.

Table 2: By gender - ‘What age do you consider to be ‘old’?’

Gender Top Response %
Male 70-74 17%
Female 85-90 13%

Source: PensionBee, April 2024. 1,000 UK adults (nat rep). All numbers have been rounded.

Table 3: By region - ‘What age do you consider to be ‘old’?’

Region Top Response %
North England 60-64 13%
South England 70-74 15%

Source: PensionBee, April 2024. 588 UK adults (nat rep). All numbers have been rounded.

Table 4: By relationship status - ‘What age do you consider to be ‘old’?’

Relationship status Top Response %
Married or in a domestic partnership 70-74 16%
Single 50-54 14%

Source: PensionBee, April 2024. 1,000 UK adults (nat rep). All numbers have been rounded.

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