Do senior discounts mess with your head?

The year I turned 55, my cousin, who is younger, drily wrote a note on my birthday card. “Welcome to the world of senior discounts,” she said.

That same birthday, a slightly older friend enthused that now I too would get reduced fare on city buses. She lived in San Francisco. I lived in a place where the only city buses were big yellow ones for schoolchildren.

That was more than a decade ago, and in the interim I have qualified for even more senior discounts as the years have ticked by, including the big enchilada, Medicare. There are no other cost breaks on the horizon to further incentivize aging. The supermarket won’t offer anything extra when I’m 80. It’s 5 percent on Tuesdays whether you’re 65 or 95.

I never gave senior discounts much thought until I read Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book on growing older, “Goddesses Never Age,” a year or so ago. Northrup, an OB/GYN and women’s health expert, advises refusing senior discounts and otherwise ignoring the passing of the years, lest you get hung up on thoughts of yourself as aged and infirm.

In the real world, you often don’t have to request discounts—you’ll get them automatically. I’m trying to remember the first time a cashier rang me up as a senior without my asking. It happens so often now that it’s not worth mentioning.

One time my husband and I went to the movies with a younger friend who got a little freaked out when the clerk gave her a senior discount, too. She was 50 at the time but apparently just being with us aged her, at least in the eyes of the teenager selling tickets.

My husband, for his part, likes senior discounts, and every other kind of discount too. If a senior discount is not an option, he’ll ask about veteran’s discounts, AAA discounts or whether buying multiples might qualify him for a discount. It doesn’t bother him to self-identify as old. He just doesn’t think about it.

But I do, and in that regard I agree with Dr. Northrup. Watch your language, she counsels—you are what you think. Don’t joke about “senior moments,” and stop saying “at my age” (as in, “Can you believe I went sky-diving at my age?”).

Keep your age a secret and don’t make a big deal of those scary milestone birthdays—the ones that fall on decades. Instead, consider yourself ageless.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went for a mini-hayride with the same friend who once got that movie discount with us. It was a quick trip through some woods and across the local golf course to a pumpkin patch. My husband plays golf there and knows the manager, Joe, who was driving the hay truck.

“Are these your daughters?” Joe asked when we arrived—and he wasn’t joking. Maybe the sun was in his eyes, but we looked young to him. I didn’t spoil the moment by asking for a senior discount.

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  • Blog Author

    Jacqueline Damian

    Jacqueline Damian is a writer and editor living in Milford, PA. The author of "Sasha’s Tail: Lessons from a Life with Cats" (W.W. Norton), she has worked in newspapers, magazines, book publishing and technology journalism. Read Full
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