Traditionally, threescore years and ten would be about as much as the average person might hope for.
But with modern medicine, and with the healthier lifestyles that we’re all being encouraged to lead, 70 is just the start of a whole new phase of life.
But what are they like, these 21st century septuagenarians? Building society Nationwide has commissioned a survey that reveals the lives, likes and secret loves of today’s pensioners.
While we think of 70-year-olds as mostly retired, a third are still in some sort of employment. As such they’re generally not too badly off for cash.
An average 70-year-old’s annual income these days is only around £3,000 less than that of the average 30-year-old: £21,617 versus £24,763.
On the downside, they are still likely to have up to six times more debt than they have savings. The average 70-something still has £31,504 of debt.
After basic expenses, our 70-year-olds can expect to have something in the region of £300 disposable income per month.
That tends to go on luxuries such as eating out and saving for holidays abroad. The average 70-year-old manages one trip overseas per year, results showed.
Not having travelled more is one of the chief regrets among the over-70s, alongside – touchingly – pining for a lost love. One in seven still thinks about ‘the one that got away’.
That’s despite the fact that the study of 2,000 people in their 70s found the average respondent had been in a relationship for more than 30 years.
While they seemed a generally happy bunch, quite a few of them had other regrets too. Many wished that they had found themselves a better job when they were younger, or saved more for their retirement.
The average respondent had £5,227 in savings, but still just under £27,000 of mortgage debt and credit card debt of just over £1,500, according to the survey.
Part of that debt might be caused by a voracious appetite for entertainment. Septuagenarians are still big music fans, with Elvis, Queen and Abba scoring particularly highly.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who at 71 is Britain’s best-known explorer, said: “While getting old can be a pain in the neck, it’s a pleasure to see that it’s not just adventurers of my age who are still active and are actually far better at keeping up with ‘the times’ than younger generations might think.”
When they’re not rocking out to classic pop, 70-year-olds watch more TV than the younger generation. Most watch more than 16 hours of TV per week – with Only Fools and Horses, The Two Ronnies and Fawlty Towers rated as the generation’s favourite shows.
2016’s crop of 70-year-olds are more active than their forebears too – a majority will do five active things per week, most likely going to the gym or taking a long walk.
Nevertheless, health is the principal worry for people in their 70s, though a third still worry about saving money, and more than a quarter worry about paying their bills each month.
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, head of Savings and Mortgage Policy at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Age is just a number - so it's encouraging to see our latest life stage study breaking some common misconceptions by highlighting the active lifestyle of many 70-year-olds, along with their working status and spending habits.
“That's not to say that older people are without worries - with health and wealth remaining concerns for many. Both show the importance of preparing for retirement, keeping active and protecting what's important.”