Ipsos survey reveals at what age a person is considered 'old'

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A new survey has revealed the age a person can be considered old.

In Australia, it’s 66.

That’s the response revealed in the Ipsos MORI 30-country survey on attitudes towards ageing.

It seems that retirement is concurrent with when Australians think a person hits ‘old age’, but the changing landscape of ageing – particularly in regard to longer term employment and longevity expectations – means this perception is quite removed from reality.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that those who reach the age of 66 can now expect to live two more decades (another 19.1 years for men and 21.7 for women). And in just the last 15 years alone, the percentage of Australians over 65 who are still in the active workforce has doubled. One in five people over 70 are also still working.

It seems that other countries have more accurate perceptions of ‘old age’.

In Spain, people are considered old at 74 years of age. In Britain, it’s 68, in France, it’s 69 and in Italy, it’s 70.


However, other countries put Australians’ estimates back in a favourable view. In countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, you’d be considered old at just 50 years of age.

Australians can also expect to live what would be considered a long time in ‘old age’, with lifespans in Australia already amongst the world’s longest.

Currently, men and women can expect to live up to two decades into old age. A boy born today can expect to live, on average, to 80.7 years old. A girl can expect to live up to 84.9 years old. Girls who live in Melbourne’s inner east or on Sydney’s north shore can expect to live to 88 years old. Australia’s ‘healthy life expectancy’ is 73 years old, which is around 10 years above the global average.

In the past 15 years, life expectancy for males has increased by 1.5 years and 1.2 years for females. Steadily declining death rates mean this number is also likely increase in most age groups.

Global average life expectancy is now 72 years, having increased by 5.5 years in the last 15 years.

With all this good news, reports Matt Wade for The Sydney Morning Herald, Australians still have very negative opinions about ageing.

According to the Ipsos survey, conducted in partnership with the Centre for Ageing Better, only 29 per cent look forward to getting old and more than half worry about old age. Only 44 per cent think they will be “fit and healthy in old age”.

Ipsos blames TV, film and advertising for presenting old age in such a negative light, with thte survey finding that these forms of media make later life seem “depressing, with limited opportunities”.

While Australians’ perceptions about ageing may be a little wide of the mark, older Australians make no bones about the value of growing older.

“I know that I get better with every year I get older, so there’s no way I want to be younger! Wrote YourLifeChoices member Zen.

“When we start seeing these later years as having potential and opportunity to continue to grow and develop and contribute to others., we might see some changes. The problem as I see it is our society does not value older people – they serve no ‘useful’ social role in society … only people who are productive, who consume and who are up with the latest technology have value…which is why everyone is so desperately trying to stay young … madness! We have to step up – know our wisdom. We have so much knowledge of life that our society needs. There is so much we could do if we stepped up and claimed the role of wise elders.”

Captain, another member, added: “Now in mid-sixties and I still think life is great. I look forward to the remaining time I have be it 1 day or 30 years. At the end of it all I believe I have had a wonderful life and will continue to have a wonderful life because life is what you make of it.

It may be time to rethink our perception of ageing. Maybe we could listen to those who have already done it.

How old do you think is old?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 28
  1. 0

    It depends on how old you are. A few years ago I would have considered anyone over the age of 70 to either already be dead or have one foot in the grave. Now I am in this catergory I consider myself to be just an 18 year old in an aging body. My wife seems to agree with this, always telling me to grow up and stop mucking around.

  2. 0

    I’m 70 most workmates my age are dead and gone. Years spent crawling around in confined spaces breathing fumes dust chemicals asbestos etc etc. takes its toll some have been lucky to get to 70 .survey all you like it’s your type of work your exercise regime your diet , genetics. There are lots of factors which may or may not depending on individual lifestyles them at contributed to whether you live long or die early.personally I think if you work 40 years contributing to the welfare of your country it’s enough.or better still become a pollie don’t work just lie and rob the workers of their pension fund that was set up for them 1943.and retire after 10 years with a million of taxpayers money to play with.

    • 0

      Couldn’t have said this better! I’m 58 & consider myself old after (& still) working hard for the last 41 years (the last 18 of it doung alternating shiftwork 12hrs x 2 or 3 days or nights including weekends when most others are either sleeping or having fun or attending social occasions & it sucks to think that i am expected or forced to do this for another 10yrs before reping some reward from all the tax i have contributed so that many others around me can afford to do all the good things in life & more (than i can myself) without working for it!! Somethings not right in this place & it stinks!!

    • 0

      No one is forcing you to keep working. There is no retirement age in Australia except for a very few like judges or clergy or pilots. If you want to stop work you can. You just have to meet the conditions of eligibility to apply for a government paid pension. If you can support yourself you don’t have to ever work a single day!

  3. 0

    I feel like I’m still 21 not my actual age. My father was the same as he felt he was 21 well into his 90s.

  4. 0

    At 71, I definitely do not feel old. I cycle about 30km on most days and, if I can’t cycle for some reason, I walk for an hour or more. I always say I feel 17 on the bike and 71 off it. I consider anything above 85 to be old but, then again, I have an 87-year old friend, who has a 40-odd-year-old wife and a teenager daughter, who is still very active. He even claims he is still chasing his wife around the table, cheeky bugger he is!

  5. 0

    There is a hard and fast answer to this question; “old” is 10 years older than you are now. Remember when you were 10? You looked at 20 as being “old” and it’s the same as when you got older. At 30, 40 was old, at 40, 50 was old and so on. The wonderful thing about this definition is that one never gets “old”, it always 10 years away.

    • 0

      There is no old, only older!

    • 0

      That is the best definition of old that I have heard and I now realise that I have always thought that way, although when I became an adult, it was 20 years rather than 10.

    • 0

      I like it too Leon.

      When people feel old they may dispute that statement but I don’t and doubt it is reasonable for many to.

      My mother, in her nineties, sometimes grumbles that she is ‘getting old.’ We tell her if she would spend a few hours less in the garden and running around after people she may feel a few less aches and pains…all the while reckoning that she will not take our advice and that if she did she probably wouldn’t last as long anyway.

    • 0

      I like it too Leon.

      When people feel old they may dispute that statement but I don’t and doubt it is reasonable for many to.

      My mother, in her nineties, sometimes grumbles that she is ‘getting old.’ We tell her if she would spend a few hours less in the garden and running around after people she may feel a few less aches and pains…all the while reckoning that she will not take our advice and that if she did she probably wouldn’t last as long anyway.

  6. 0

    Age is a state of mind.

  7. 0

    It’s a state of mind. You need to keep as physically and mentally active as possible.
    I know people who are in their 70s and 80s who are young and people in there 50s and 60s who are old.

  8. 0

    At nearly 70 I work out in the gym three days a wek, play tennis at least a couple of times a week and look at some people 30 years younger than me and wonder if they will ever hit 70.
    My mantra is, I’m not going to grow old ,I’m just going to die one day

  9. 0

    You are as old as you feel. Some days I feel young and energetic and some days I feel 100. I think the more you do, the younger you feel. Doing nothing makes you feel old.

  10. 0

    If you can keep yourself healthy in both body and mind there is no set time that old age really starts. But eventually we all succumb to the aches, pains and illnesses that come with aging. I am 70, reasonably fit and healthy but I can not do everything I once could and am becoming forgetful. Also I have attended the funerals of several old mates over the past few years who didn’t make it to seventy.

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