Coronavirus: What does “elderly” or “Older” mean?

CDC has, on various pages, defined older as “60+” based on the sharp increase in mortality of SARS-CoV-2 infections that occur at age 60 and up. For those age 50 and up, the curve is also several times higher than below 40,

Unfortunately, there is no clarity on what is meant by officials when they warn us about risks to “older” people or the “elderly”.

CDC seems to imply that with regards to novel coronavirus, “older” is age 60 while some public health districts in California use age 50. Although regarding the warning against traveling on cruise ships, the LA Times says this applies those age 70 or older.

Similarly, there are references to “the elderly” – what does that mean?

  • Social Security says age 65.
  • The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Administration says age 62.
  • This page says the term “senior citizen” applies to those at age 60 or 65.
  • Officially, if you are past “middle age”, you may be considered “older” or “elderly”.
  • Interesting items here suggest it has become associated with “feeble” but the root word is actually “elder”, which describes someone to be respected.

There does not seem to be a precise definition – but it seems to fall somewhere in the 60-65 age range and occasionally in the 65-70 range.

The lack of any definition does not help the CDC’s communication. How do individuals know if they are the target audience for the recommendation when vague terms like “older” or “elderly” are given, but not defined?

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