Senior Citizens Survive The Label Just Fine

Does anyone know for sure when a “senior citizen” comes of age?

 

I used to think that recipients of social security were senior citizens.  Let’s see.  Was that at age 65 or 62?  Maybe age 66 if you were born after a certain year. 

 

If you are a commercial airline pilot flying hundreds of passengers from New York to London and you hit age 60 mid-flight, you automatically lose your ticket to ride in the front of the plane via mandatory retirement.  You can always ride with the remainder of the first, business and economy class steerage … but, you probably won’t qualify (yet) for any senior citizen discount.

 

But, as a “senior citizen” cousin of mine discovered recently, if you’re the local Catholic Arch Bishop attempting to “pilot” thousands of souls into eternity you can continue to lead and feed the sheep well beyond age 60 right up to your 75th birthday … but, it’s retirement after that.

 

Certainly age 75 ought to qualify one as a senior citizen … shouldn’t it?

 

Some states allow their “senior citizens” to hunt or fish for free or at a discount at a certain “senior” age, offer senior citizen discounts when they pay their property taxes, and even offer discounts on such government sponsored goodies as driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, and the like. 

 

Some of those same states also dictate certain restrictions on senior citizen driver’s licenses.  Some states place severe restrictions on “older” senior citizens to the point of not allowing them to drive their cars after hitting a certain “senior” age … even though they haven’t “hit” anything during their pristine 65-year driving career.

 

Go figure.

 

Of course the various states with “senior citizen” regulations cannot agree on a universal or nationally accepted  “senior citizen” age.  Maybe those seniors living in Maine or Texas differ dramatically from those living in California … well, at least perhaps politically.    

 

For sure, most of the commercial determiners of what chronological age qualifies one as a “senior citizen” are in disagreement and are confused by their own senior citizen age policies or lack thereof.

 

For example, try ordering off the “senior” menu at most restaurants offering “special” senior citizen selections. 

 

What happens when you do if you are “under age?”

 

You almost always get your order regardless of age … no questions asked!

 

What’s so “special” about that?

 

For years, before my “coming of age” as a senior citizen (at least I feel old enough to be one) I was reluctant to order off the senior menu out of fear of being “carded.” 

 

I admit that in my Boy Scout oath, law, motto and slogan mindset, I was always in fear of the enforcement arm of the local restaurateur’s association charging out from behind the kitchen door in full SWAT regalia demanding to know my “real” age and proof thereof.

 

What kind of scam was I pulling trying to take away those meals set aside for their “aging” customers.  Frankly, I have always been hopeful that all of the customers surrounding me in restaurants were “still” aging. 

 

Maybe I should give restaurants offering senior “discounts” a little slack.  After all, my hair still hasn’t turned totally gray … yet!  And, I don’t usually arrive at the restaurant door with an entourage of caregivers and life-support equipment in tow.

 

I also do admit here to occasionally ordering the senior citizen’s “secret” discount meal at fast-food drive-through windows … a “Kid’s Meal.”   And, to be totally honest, I’ve now stopped saying to the window clerk “This is for my son at home.”

 

My grandchildren now inherit those “made in China” cellophane-wrapped toys that usually come with those meals.  Of course, I lead-paint test each toy first.

 

At least you’d think that the American Association of Retired Persons (that was their original name—now known only as “AARP”—a thinly disguised ruse to expand their membership eligibility deep into the numbers of the “non” retired persons population) could agree on a consistent, “you’ve finally made it” senior citizen age to qualify for their government subsidized membership benefits. 

 

You’d think.

 

However, considering AARP’s membership eligibility history, one day your grandchildren may complete their Bar Mitzvah, Quinceanera or high-school graduation only to discover in their mailbox a card with their name on it announcing to them (as if they were new senior citizens): “You now qualify for membership in AARP!”

 

I’ll just stick with the free fishing and a kid’s meal.

 

© Submitted by Bob Grafe for publication on August 28, 2008.

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