A human life has several stages, but exactly how many stages will probably cost you a Google search. Would you believe nine? Pregnancy, infancy, “the toddler years”, childhood, puberty, “the adolescent years”, adulthood, middle age, and “the senior years”. That’s a lot of stages (and I suddenly feel tired). According to my age – 57 – I’ve battled Father Time through the first seven on the list and hover somewhere between the last two. And therein lies today’s question: What the heck defines “the senior years”?
In case I forget – as seniors are wont to do – allow me to wish you a very happy “Senior Citizens Day”! No joke (and no Hallmark card – I checked), August 21st is the calendar date set aside “to increase awareness about the issues that face older adults”. Well now, doesn’t that just call for a celebration? No, it doesn’t. In fact, my fingers feel a little more arthritic just typing about it.
Admittedly, I’ve been a senior before, back in a couple of those earlier life stages. I was a senior in high school. I was a senior in college. In the Boy Scouts, I was a senior patrol leader. If I’d thought to name one of my sons after myself, I could’ve been “Dave Sr.”. Now however, wrestling with the idea of advanced middle age, I’m forced to confront the one, true definition of “senior”. The word in that sense (especially senior citizen) – is a little daunting. I prefer “older” or “more experienced”. You know, the softer side of Sears.
Blame former U.S. President Ronald Reagan if you’re looking for a scapegoat. After all, he’s the one who – while in office – declared August 21st to be “National Senior Citizens Day” in America. Reagan signed said proclamation in 1988 at the ripe (older) age of 77. By all definitions, that made Reagan a senior citizen himself. Isn’t that kind of like throwing yourself a party?
Speaking of definitions, for all my searches I can’t thumb a tack into the specific age one enters life’s final stage. Consider the following takes on “senior citizen”:
- A polite expression for an old person.
- An older person, usually over the age of 60 or 65, esp. one who is no longer employed.
- The age at which one qualifies for certain government-sponsored benefits (i.e. Social Security, Medicare).
- The United Nations has agreed that 65+ may be usually denoted as “old age”.
- Being a senior citizen may be based on your age, but it is not a specific age (say what?)
The definitions get even vaguer, but you see the pattern. No one – not the United Nations nor Merriam-Webster – wants to tag “senior citizen” with a specific age. Well, I do. I want my bedside clock to turn to midnight on the designated date, and instead of beeping the alarm it squawks, “Senior Citizen! Senior Citizen!” I suppose, if someone held my aging feet to the fire and said, “Choose!”, I’d go with Definitions #2 and #4. At least then I’m backing up my truck to “middle age”.
Perhaps your definition of senior citizen is more towards retail; as in, the age you start qualifying for discounts, freebies and such. Sorry old man (old woman?), you’re just complicating the matter (and seniors don’t do “complicated”). The shopping website DealNews just updated their article, “The 123 Best Senior Discounts to Use in 2019”. That’s a lot of “bests”, DealNews. But there’s even more homework for those nearsighted eyes. You must also know which discount kicks in at what age. Senior discounts ≠ senior citizen unless you need the following thirteen-year time frame to get used to the idea:
- Hardee’s – age 52 (that’s me!)
- McDonald’s – 55 (that’s me again! But only for coffee and I don’t do McDonald’s coffee).
- Applebee’s – 60 (may require “Golden Apple Card”. Oooooooo)
- Fazoli’s – 62 (and you get the “Club 62” discount menu. Okay, that sounds cooler than a “Golden Apple Card”)
- Taco Bell – 65 (plus free drink – ¡Olé!)
- Wendy’s – “age and offer vary depending on restaurant location” (c’mon, Wendy’s!)
Poets and playwrights try to soften the blow of “the senior years” with their eloquent quotes. The Englishman Robert Browning said, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” The American Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As we grow old… the beauty steals inward.” Nice tries, noble poets, but I’ll go with positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale instead. Norm simply said, “Live your life and forget your age”. Take that, senior years!