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How old is a ‘senior’ for elderly Seoulites?

Average age of elderly Seoulites who consider themselves “seniors” are 72.6 years old, 7.6 years older than legal standard

By Park Jun-hee

Published : Feb. 6, 2023 - 15:01

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Elderly people line up in front of Wongaksa Pagoda in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, to receive free meals. (Yonhap) Elderly people line up in front of Wongaksa Pagoda in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, to receive free meals. (Yonhap)

Elderly Seoulites consider those above 72.6 years old as senior citizens here, a survey by the Seoul Metropolitan Government showed Monday. The figure is the average age of the respondents who answered “yes” when asked if they consider themselves as seniors.

The 2022 report on the welfare and living conditions of the elderly in Seoul compiled by the city government was based on a survey conducted from June to August, including a face-to-face survey with 3,010 respondents above 65. Currently, “senior citizen” is defined by national law as anyone 65 and older. The city government added that the 72.6 age threshold is 7.6 years older than the current legal definition.

Of the survey participants, 43.89 percent of those aged between 70 and 74 defined themselves as senior citizens, while 23.39 percent of those aged between 76 and 79 and 17.84 percent of those above 80 also considered themselves elders. Meanwhile, 14.88 percent of those aged between 60 and 69 considered themselves senior citizens.

Nearly 85 percent of the elderly responded that they are smartphone users, and 26.3 percent of senior tech users said they use the internet to search for the information they need.

According to the findings, the ratio of working senior citizens was on the mend at 41.6 percent, up 6.5 percent compared to 2018. Of them, 28.2 percent were full-time workers, while 31 percent were self-employed without employees. Their average tenure was 15.3 years, receiving 1.9 million won ($1,561) as their average monthly income.

The Seoul municipal government explained that Seoul’s demographic characteristics had seen a seismic change, driven by the aging of baby boomers born between 1955 and 1963.

The city government said that the results would be used as data for establishing policies for older people, adding it would make efforts to improve the quality of life for the elderly.

Seniors aged 65 and up accounted for 17.6 percent of the city’s population last year and have been eligible for free subway travel since 1984.

However, the free subway ride policy for seniors aged 65 and up has become the subject of heated debate as the city government plans to raise transportation fees as early as April. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon cited the free ride policy as a critical factor that contributed to a near-insurmountable deficit for the metro operator.

Debates about raising the retirement age of 60 also remain on the table, as the budget committee of the national pension service forecasts that the pension funds will be depleted in 2055 amid an aging population and falling birth rate.