“Just What Is A Senior Anyway?”

When we were young, we really looked forward to the day we can say that we are a senior – in high school. Senior was such a grownup place to be. It had a nice sound to it. It was great to say, and people seemed to understand what it meant, having been there themselves at some point or about to be. 

Then, being a senior in college became an objective for many of us. That meant that we were almost to the point when we had to begin doing what we had been preparing for all those years – unless it was forestalled a little by graduate school or the military.

Well, that happened. For some of us, that happened long ago. But now there is another senior title on the horizon or already earned.

Senior – short for senior citizen – is a title or honor, but it often is tossed about as if there is something not as esteemed about having it. Seniors – at the upper end of the age spectrum – are frequently lumped together as other age groups are (kids or middle age, for instance) and treated as a homogeneous group.

There may be a few common characteristics among the senior population, but there are many individual or dissimilar ones as well. As for traits in common, they were born within a few years of each other so they have similar life experiences in what was taught at school, what TV shows they remember growing up with (even if TV wasn’t one of their earliest memories), how people used to behave toward each other in a more formal time, current events that they observed firsthand rather than reading or hearing about later, stores that have come and gone (even large, well-known ones), fads, foods, and so much more. People born after them just don’t have the same frame of reference unless they remember hearing stories at home from the parents or grandparents.

Being a senior does have certain benefits. People often are nicer to you in public – they will hold doors open or yield the right of way. They allow extra time for crossing the street or making decisions in public. And there are those senior discounts.

Depending on the merchant, and whether it is local or a national chain, senior discounts are available for fastfood, coffee and soft drinks, airline tickets, movies, clothing, haircuts, bus rides, entertainment, and more.

The interesting part of those discounts is when they apply – at what age it takes to become eligible to receive them. This leads to the whole discussion of just what age is a senior. For AARP and other places, a senior begins at age 50. It has nothing to do with being retired or employed. It is just sort or an honorary title at that point. White, gray, graying, or balding hair may go along with it.

Receiving a discount at a restaurant or for movie tickets might begin at 55 – or later. Age 60 is a benchmark for receiving discounts from hair salons and other services. It could be age 62 (also the earliest age at which someone can begin taking Social Security benefits). Age 65 is the common age used for declaring someone to be a senior. This used to be the “official” retirement age and the one at which Social Security began – now it’s 66 or later. For the TSA, its age 75 at which people can leave their shoes and jackets on as they go through airport security, whether they are pre-checked or not.

It’s right that there should be certain benefits accruing to a senior. It takes decades of living to get there.

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