International Day of Older Persons

Is the traditional age limit for defining older persons (65+) still adequate?

In view of their life cycle, generations aged 65–74 are much more similar to 10 years younger people than to those aged 75–84.

  • 26 September 2016 at 10:30
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The differences in life expectancy at birth vary among countries and can be as large as 50 years

1 October was designated the International Day of Older Persons ( by the United Nations General Assembly at its 68 plenary meeting ( It is interesting that the General Assembly did not determine the age limit for old age, but this is also understandable due to large differences in life expectancy at birth in the world. According to latest UN data (Demographic Yearbook 2014 - men in Lesotho could expect to live only 40 years and in ten other African countries and in Afghanistan men could expect to live less than 50 years. Afghanistan was the only country where life expectancy for women was shorter than life expectancy for men. On the other hand, in all European countries life expectancy at birth exceeded 65 years; in 24 countries it exceeded 75 years both for men and women and in 15 countries only women could expect to live more than 75 years. Women could expect to live longest in Hong Kong (almost 87 years). In Slovenia a boy born in 2015 could expect to life 77.5 years and a girl 83.5 years.

Infogram 1: Population by age groups and family status, Slovenia, 1 January 2015

Is the traditional age limit for defining older persons (65+) still adequate?
Because life expectancy at birth is getting longer (in Slovenia it has increased by 7 years over the past 25 years), it is questionable whether the traditional age limit for defining older persons (65+) is still adequate. Here we will present the changes in the life cycle, focusing on how the family status of older persons is changing with age and as a result also due to e.g. children leaving their family or children forming their own families in the existing household, loss of spouse or partner, divorce, inability to live independently or other personal circumstances.

Most persons aged 55–64 are married with children; at ages 65–74 and 75–84 most are married without children; among persons aged 85+ most are living alone

More than 60% of persons from age groups 55–64 years and 65–74 years in Slovenia were still living with their spouses or partners in 2015. The only difference is that the share of spouses/partners with children was twice as high in the age group 55–64 years (one in three was living with at least one child, while among 65–74-year-olds the share was one in five).

With growing age the shares of spouses (with or without children) were rapidly declining, so that at age 85+ fewer than one in five persons were still living with their spouses/partners. It is interesting that the share of one-parent families did not grow with age and that the share of older persons living alone grew a lot (by about 10 percentage points among individual broad age groups after 74 years of age). Among persons aged 85+ four out of ten were living alone; only 10% were never married and 80% were widowed, so that the fact that they are living alone was a result of death of spouse and children leaving the family. Due to longer life expectancy of women, 84% of persons aged 85+ living alone were women. 12% of persons from the oldest age group (85+) were living alone in the building, the most frequently a detached house (96%).

According to census data, the share of those living in multi-person households (usually with their children who had their own families) was also increasing with age, but these persons were not members of any family in the household. Just over 3,000 persons aged 64+ were living with their grandchildren or with brothers and/or sisters. It is interesting that only 16 persons in Slovenia aged 74+ were still living with parents, usually with only one of them, in the primary family (For more see Dad, Mom, Grandpa, Grandma

At age 84 one in ten residents is living in an institution for the elderly

The results of population ageing also show in the share of persons who due to their personal circumstances are no longer capable of living alone or whom relatives can no longer care for, so they seek residence in appropriate institutions. In most cases this is an old people’s home (in Slovenia in 2015 93%) or a social welfare institution for the elderly (in Slovenia in 2015 5%). The shares of older persons living in so-called collective living quarters or institutional household are increasing with age. At age 80, 5% of persons lived in institutional households, at age 84 more than 10% and at age 90+ more than one in four.

Data on the household and family situation, shown by broad age groups (55–64, 65–74, 75–84, 85+) from the register-based population census 2015 as of 1 January, confirm the thesis that the age limit of 65 years is no longer the most adequate for determining older persons. As regards the life cycle, generations aged 65–74 were much more similar to 10 years younger people than to those aged 75–84. Due to later labour market entry of young people, longer years of service, postponing of births, later departure of young people from primary families and longer life, we can expect that the current relationships between individual positions in the family or household will gradually but persistently shift to older ages.

When making use of the data and information of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, always add: "Source: SURS". More: Copyright.