People can begin collecting their Social Security benefits at age 62, though they are not entitled to the same amount as if they waited until normal retirement age, which is determined by their birth year. Widows or widowers may receive benefits as early as age 60.
People who retire between age 62 and their normal retirement age are eligible to receive a benefit amount that is reduced depending on how many months early they retire. The reduction is due to the fact that their total benefits are paid over a longer time period. The Social Security Administration web site has a chart that helps people determine when to retire and begin collecting Social Security benefits.