Widows and widowers can receive Social Security benefits as early as age 60, though benefits are reduced if they are taken before reaching full retirement age. Widows and widowers may switch to their own retirement benefits between the ages of 62 and 70 if they choose, according to Social Security.
If a survivor's deceased spouse was already receiving Social Security benefits before death, the amount of benefits the survivor receives is based on what the deceased spouse was receiving. The age considered to be full retirement age varies depending on when the survivor was born; those born before 1940 reach full retirement age at 65, while those born in 1962 and later receive full benefits at age 67, as Social Security explains. Figuring the amount of survivors benefits due is complicated, and qualifying widows and widowers should discuss their individual situations with a Social Security representative.