I turn 65 at the end of May. I’ve signed up for Medicare, navigated the Medicare supplement offerings over the last few months, and let the boss know that I’ll celebrate my birthday by retiring. I’m ready to start enjoying the discounts stores and organizations give to the old-timers.
But, as has been the case most of my life, my timing stinks, if an article in Monday’s Boston Globe is any indication. There is a growing backlash against giving discounts to senior citizens.
Why should seniors get discounts when younger people are suffering from the burden of student loans and $1,000 phones?
“The senior discount should be radically rethought,” says David Wallis, who leads the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. “Let’s say you have a very comfortable lifestyle. Do you deserve cheap seats at the movie theater?”
Wallis says the people who should get discounts are
harder-off young people low-income people.
“Older Americans are not the only ones struggling,” Ben Brown, founder of the Association of Young Americans, says. “The cost of education has exploded over the past 15 years, and the student debt crisis has reached epidemic proportions. We absolutely see the need to create new discounts for younger folks who are struggling.”
Senior discounts started in the ’60s when seniors, many of whom had interrupted their moneymaking years to go fight a war, were a little worse off. Plus, seniors today don’t do the one thing that makes the discounts more financially sustainable for businesses: die sooner.
Now, many seniors are retiring with some fat nest eggs (a substantial portion of which will be transferred to their ungrateful offspring) and don’t need the break, the youth advocates contend.
Senior discounts obviously have their fans — mostly seniors who spend much of their retirement chasing senior discounts.
But old people are pushing back, too, particularly when they’re offered the discounts without asking for it.
Writing in the Seattle Times, Sharon Romm, a medical director at a psychiatric institute, recoiled when she was reminded of being old.
I complained to the manager, who did respond with an apology for his employee’s insensitive behavior. OK for the manager. He’ll now have signs at the checkout lines inviting those who would like a discount to request it.
I found this episode and others where a focus on age by a stranger both annoying and humiliating. Like the young woman who commented as I power-walked on Alki, “How old are you? I’d like to be as spry as you when I’m your age.” Yuk. May this woman learn better manners long before she reaches my age.
Is anyone who looks different from the usual fair game for being singled out and publicly identified? Is it OK to comment on a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair, on someone’s body shape, or on how a person might look after undergoing chemotherapy?
One possible solution? Allow the senior citizens in line to transfer the discount to the kid in line behind them.
In the meantime, keep working everyone, I need to live off your Social Security taxes.