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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Who Is A Senior Citizen?

A previous post about learning a foreign language caused me to take a small mental digression. Days later I’m still puzzling over it. Have you ever wondered who you are? It may have something to do with those two years of studying German and reading existential writers like Herman Hesse. But this is my existential question: Am I a senior citizen?

We've heard 60 is the new 40, seventy is the new young old age. And lots of other silly phrases trying to hide our fear of aging and also the collective concern about the huge bump of baby boomers rapidly turning into the old geezers. 

How it is that despite the number of oldsters, everyone and every organization, including the federal government, has a different definition of what it means to be a senior citizen? Maybe we need a geezer organization to help us. 

Oh wait, we have one. The AARP. And they start counting us early. By AARP standards, I’ve been a senior for over a decade. Now, my husband finally has reached Medicare age and I’m close behind. But neither of us has reached the age for full Social Security benefits and won’t for some time. 

And I can tell you that creates some issues, even with those organizations. Medicare sort of assumes you are on Social Security when you sign up as they want to deduct your premiums from your Social Security check, which you aren't getting yet unless you take early and reduced benefits. I suppose that wait for "free money" is only going to get worse for those coming after us. And how is it free money if we've paid into Social Security our whole working lives? So many existential questions. So few answers.

But beyond the government, the confusion of who is a senior is just as great. I go to one movie theater and I’m a senior citizen. But not at another chain. What about at the zoo, science museum, art galleries? What am I? Adult (which according to some airline fares is everyone over the age of two and younger than a senior) or Senior Citizen? Try sitting on an airplane next to one of those two year old "adults".

Then there’s always the fear, or should I use the more accurate German word, "angst"--if I claim senior citizen status--are they going “to card" me? There was an earlier time the possibility of being carded also created angst--before I was legal drinking age or just past it and didn't look my age. Then there were the years when it was a compliment. Now I suppose it again could be considered a compliment. 

Except for the fact that most of the time neither I nor the cashier know at what age a person is considered a legitimate senior citizen. Should I have to declare my age every time I buy a ticket for some venue? I feel a bit like Andy Rooney, one of the great, unapologetic geezers, when he used to say things like—“Do you ever wonder, who makes up these rules?”

Everyone seems to have their own definition of who is a senior. Do I get the Walgreen's senior citizen discount or is it CVS that treats me as a senior citizen? I don’t know and it probably doesn’t matter, as I try to avoid senior citizen day at the drug store if I possibly can.

On senior citizen discount day, folks my age or older are delivered by busloads at the drug chains to shop. The pushcarts are wheeled out to the buses so the senior shoppers can lean on the carts as they head into the drug stores to cruise the aisles. “American Graffiti” cruising has come full circle as the boomer generation is now perusing the adult diaper aisle with pushcarts. How many romances have blossomed on senior day at Walgreen's? Something we will probably never know.

 While I also do not know for sure whether I or anyone else is a senior at any particular age I'm happy to say I found a German word that sort of describes my feelings about it. Wikipedia says "Sehnsucht" is a German noun that is difficult to translate but relates to a deep emotional state of longing or yearning. Sort of how I feel about trying to know if I am a senior. 

I propose a simple test, at least for the drug store: if you need to push a cart to walk through the drug store you get the discount. 


1 comment:

  1. great blog. anfd yes, it is a bit ridiculous to be carded when grey hair, wrinkles, and a slight limp is obvious! What will 'THEY" thimk of next? Who are THEY anyway? ! ?

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