· 24 January 2018

Old age no longer starts at age 65

Por cenie
La vejez ya no empieza a los 65 años - Fundación General CSIC, Sociedad

The debate about how old people enter old age is gaining prominence in many countries, especially in those that are witnessing an accelerated aging of their population, such as Spain or Japan.

There are more and more voices that raise the need to redefine the threshold from which a person is considered "old" because the chronological barrier of 65 years no longer corresponds to the real image of aging.

The sexagenaires of today have nothing to do with those of just a decade ago nor is the current life expectancy the same as when this limit was set. It is not a trivial debate, because it directly affects the design of public policies, health costs, the aging projections and the social perception of the elderly.

Recently, the Gerontological and Geriatric Societies of Japan have put on the table new data that question the fixed threshold of 65 from the point of view of biology and gave new arguments to those who advocate redefining the concept of "old age". Japanese gerontologists have analyzed objective data on the physical condition of the elderly and have found that people of 75-79 years have the same walking speed and grip strength in the hand as those of 65-69 years old of years before, so they do not see fit to consider "old" to the current sexagenarians.

For this reason, a joint committee of both societies has proposed reclassifying old age into three groups: pre-age, referring to people between 65 and 74 years old; old age, for those between the ages of 75 and 90, and super-age for the group of "superage", those who are over 90 years old. In Spain for a long time Antonio Abellán, researcher of the Department of Population of the CSIC and director of the website Aging in Network, and other demographers and statisticians opened this debate proposing that the entry into old age should be marked by a mobile threshold linked to life expectancy, so that to be or not to be old does not depend on the chronological age, on the date that it puts on the identity card, but on the prospective age, of the years that theoretically one has to live.

Specifically, Abellán and his colleagues from the CSIC suggest that someone should be considered "old" fifteen years before his death, taking as expected date of this life expectancy at 65 years. In this sense, and following the line of argument of the Japanese that there are no biological reasons for old age to begin at age 65, Abellán explains that, according to INE mortality tables, Spaniards aged 65 still had 21 years to live in 2015, exactly the same as those who were 58 years old in 1976, who were people that nobody dared to consider "old" because they had a lot of life ahead of them. And it adds another reference to the debate: the proportion of the population that perceives its health status well or very well.

If we compare the results of the National Health Survey of 2012 and 2003, we see that those who are now in the 74-75 years report health levels as those of 65 from nine years ago. "It seems clear that the young-old people of today (the pre-age that the Japanese say) are better than before, and also that we live longer because we have reduced or delayed the most lethal and disabling diseases, and the question is whether we want to add those years to old age or if what we want is a longer aging, "reflects the researcher.

Emphasizes that maintaining the fixed threshold of 65 years or replacing it with a mobile one based on prospective age has important economic and legal consequences (many tax, labor and inheritance laws and regulations take 65 years as reference) and complicate some comparative analyzes, economic and population, but also remove negative burden on aging and provide a more realistic image of a large group of people.

Source: La Vanguardia

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal