Widows and widowers can claim Social Security survivor benefits when they reach age 60, and those who are disabled can claim benefits at age 50. Surviving spouses who care for minor children can apply for a reduced benefit at any age, according to the American Association of Retired Persons.
Widows and widowers who take the benefits owed to their deceased spouses can switch over to their own benefits between the ages of 62 and 70, Social Security notes. If the survivors' benefits are more than their own benefits, the surviving spouses aren't required to switch. Individuals who take survivors' benefits before their own full retirement age receive reduced payments for the rest of their lives.