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February 26, 2013

At What Age Do You Become a Senior Citizen?

Shortly before I turned 49 I got an invitation to join AARP. I was insulted. “I’m not a senior citizen,” I told my husband. Then he reminded me that he was a member of AARP and he was a year old than me. He said there were some benefits that he could use and that shut me up.

But did 49 mean I was a senior citizen?A few years later we went on a trip and got a senior discount on one of those rooms for lovers. When we checked in the 20 something hotel clerk looked at us and at the rate and then asked for ID as well as the AARP card. He went and got his manager and I can still hear him trying to whisper: “These people aren’t old looking.”

The manager stuck his head out the door and smiled. He honored our request without question though. We were members of a senior group and could prove it.

Perhaps I have always been hesitant to be considered a senior citizen because we don’t really revere our elders the way we should in the U.S. I have seen old women- a lot over 50- go off on young people sitting in the senior/handicap sections on the bus. They have to tell these disrespectful youths to get up when the driver won’t. I have also seen people refuse to give way to elderly people walking or to help them when they fall. And I have heard too many tales of seniors dying alone because no one would come and check on them, offer to get them food when it was cold out or take them to the doctor.

Sure some of these incidents stem from people being independent right into their 90s. They live alone because they like it and sometimes they don’t ask for help. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be offered.

So being considered a senior citizen makes me a bit testy.

Until I figured out the discounts. Like I said the hotel with the romantic room and hot tub was just the beginning of me being wise enough to use discounts the way they should be used.

Most of the time we assume that senior discounts start at 65. That’s when the New York City MTA discount kicks in. Seems a bit long to wait for since major grocery store chains are offering senior discounts to people 55 and over  on specific week days. Most of the shoppers forget to ask for it. But not me.  Food costs too much to not use a discount.

Some movie theatre chains offer discounts if you are over 60. You don’t need a card for that. Just i.d.

Amtrak and several airlines allow senior discounts at 62. But you have to read the fine print. On Amtrak the discount is only on the  basic coach fair. If you upgrade you don’t get the discount on the upgrade.

Other things to take into consideration when you are using any kind of discounts is if you can combine discounts. Most places you can’t. I booked a hotel that had a discount for the event I was going to as well as for seniors and they told me to pick one. Had I been allowed to combine the discounts I would have gotten the suite I wanted for $25.00.

I assume the discounts are to be nice. And they aren’t always that much. It is just a little respect to those who have lived a longer and have less to spend.

It still doesn’t determine the age you become a senior citizen. Perhaps that is a state of mind. And then again, as my dear husband likes to say “All the old folks are dead.”

Minnette Coleman

I reside in Harlem, New York and am a member of the esteemed Harlem Writers Guild. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia I have authored two novels "The Blacksmith's Daughter" and "No Death by Unknown Hands." I also toured my one woman show on the Civil Rights Movement, "Hand-Me-Downs" in the south. I was privileged to perform off-off Broadway in both dramas and musicals with some great actors and directors.

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4 comments to At What Age Do You Become a Senior Citizen?

  • Don Frankel

    Got on the bus the other day, saw those seats in the front that say reserved for the elderly and the disabled and realized I can sit in them. I guess we could call that a senior moment.

    What food stores have discounts for food? Please don’t tell me Trader Joe’s. It’s so crowded there it’s like shopping on the A train.

  • Actually, according to the MTA you are not a senior yet. You have to be 65.
    As far as the grocery stores with discounts, they are only 5% but that is always helpful with the price of food. Pathmark on Monday and Food Emporium Tuesday.

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  • Minette, this is off-topic for this post, but I was hoping you would see my post, something about “My Review (?) of “No Death by Unknown Hands”.

    It wasn’t really a review, just comments, but maybe I can rework it and post on Amazon, although I note that you have already gotten a number of nice reviews. Your writing style is so descriptive, made me feel that I was actually on the scene.

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