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Brazilians Say Youth Ends at 37 and Old Age Begins at 64

11/27/2017 - 11h57

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ANA ESTELA DE SOUSA PINTO
FROM SÃO PAULO

Today's old age is not the same as it was in the past. Demographers have stopped counting only the years a person has lived since birth while anthropologists see a reinvention of old age – values that were valid before now have no value. Ask Brazilians how old a person must be to be considered old: the answers will range from 14 to 130.

On average Brazilians say that old age begins at 64. As the figures cover a very wide range, it is also a good idea to look at the number in the middle: 60.

However, one in every ten Brazilians does not have an opinion on the age one must be to be considered old.

"There is a 'de-chronologization' of age," says Guita Grin Debert, a professor of anthropology at Unicamp. The stratum above 60 includes "a great variety in economic, social-cultural and mainly autonomy terms, which is more connected to capacity - not age."

A group of demographers responsible for drawing up public policies says that the meaning of the category age group itself must be adjusted according to the period.

Calculations of Sergei Scherbov, the director of demography at Iiasa (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) and one of the main world specialists in population averages, show that 60 might well be the new 50.

Instead of counting the number of years a person has lived, Scherbov looks at the number a person still has ahead of him.

For 62-year-old Australian in the 2000s, that number would be 19 and a half. In 1950, to have the same number of years left, that person would have to be eight years younger. "Dealing with ageing based only on chronological age is an incomplete and inadequate analysis," says Scherbov.

YOUNG SENIORS

Demographers are giving new meaning to the fact that in most countries there is a growing number of people living longer.

In Brazil in 2000, for example, there were 9.7 million Brazilians over the age of 65 and they represented 6% of the country's population. That number doubled to 17.6 million in 2017, which now represents 8%.

Estimates of the IBGE, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, show that in 2030, 30 million Brazilians (or 13% of the total number of people) will be above 65.

Is that a sign that the country is becoming older? For those only counting years, yes, it is.

However, for those looking at the years left to live, youth and old age are now longer, and there will be more active people.

On average, Brazilians already consider themselves young until the age of 37; however, that range is becoming more elastic and reaching 47 in the answers of women over 60.

Among educated elders, the standard reaches 51years old and 19% says that youth is only lost after the age of 60.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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