Why do organizations, companies and government offer seniors
discounts? Next spring, according to the airlines and almost every
other organization that gives perks to folks 65 and older, I will
officially be considered a ‘senior’. I will have to wait at least an
additional 10 months to qualify for the Everest of aging — Social
Security. Why they make this distinction at age 65 is a bit of a
mystery to me.
suppose it is based on the assumption that many of us with gray hair
are in financial need. That’s nice, but many of us were in financial
need when we were 64 also.
I am not a fan of being ‘politically correct’, as I think that many
people who bristle at the names we use to label other people are
disgustingly self-righteous. Nonetheless, they do have a point. The
words we use do evoke a background or context that influences how we
observe and relate to people. If we call people ‘retarded’ (instead of
‘developmentally disabled’), it carries a lot of judgmental garbage
that isn’t necessarily true, serves no purpose and is generally
Ageism, like most discriminatory frameworks, can be subtle and
insidious. It becomes more so when the distinctions used for marketing
and for programs intended to be helpful are also used to reinforce
patterns of discrimination. For example, what would we think if
commercial enterprises boldly advertised “Special Discounts for People
Now you might argue that all these discounts for seniors aren’t
biased at all, but are more along the lines of an acknowledgement for
all the nice things we’ve done in the process of growing older. If you
believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you…No, social
programs for seniors are built on the belief that older people ‘need’
economic help. Seniors discounts are simply a marketing technique to
get our business. So why not offer special discounts for women—or any
of a hundred other groups of people?
I am not about to give all the perks back when they arrive next
year, but it would be nice if I could share them when I want to with
others who might really need them. Maybe we could do something like
that—like having one of those bowls in the store where you can donate
your small change or take some out when you need it. Or like the
loyalty reward programs that let you donate your ‘points’ to charities.
Maybe if each organization and business created a ‘perk account’, we
could leave our discounts there and allow anyone—of any age—to pick
them up without embarrassment.