Senior citizen is a common polite designation for an
elderly person in both UK and US English, and it implies or means
that the person is retired. This in turn implies or in fact means
that the person is over the retirement age, which of course varies
according to country. Synonyms include pensioner
in UK English and retiree and senior
in US English. Some dictionaries describe widespread usage of
"senior citizen" already for people over the age of
60, which is not a common retirement age. "Senior citizen"
is replacing the term old-age pensioner traditionally
used in UK English.
When defined in an official context, "senior citizen"
is often used for legal or policy-related reasons in determining
who is eligible for certain benefits available to the age group.
It is used in general usage instead of traditional terms such
as "old person", "old-age pensioner", or "elderly"
as a courtesy and to signify continuing relevance of and respect
for this population group as "citizens"
of society, of "senior" rank.
The term was apparently coined in 1938 during a political campaign.
It has come into widespread use in recent decades in legislation,
commerce, and common speech. Especially in less formal contexts,
it is often abbreviated as "senior(s)", which is also
used as an adjective.
In commerce, businesses often offer "senior
discounts", sometimes with a special "senior
The age which qualifies for senior citizen status varies widely.
In governmental contexts it is usually associated with an age
at which pensions or medical benefits
for the elderly become available. In commercial contexts, where
it may serve as a marketing device to
attract customers, the age is often significantly lower.
In the United States, the standard
retirement age is currently 65 (gradually increasing to 67).
The AARP allows couples in which one spouse
has reached the age of 50 to join, regardless of the age of the
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