serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Seniors Discounts?

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/7/06

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.

I 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 pejorative.

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 of Color”?

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.

Might work.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.


One Response to “Seniors Discounts?”

  1. Rhea said

    i think you’re right. The senior discounts (and early bird dinners, etc.) are a way of drawing in business. As cynical as I can be at times, I actually believed they were giving senior discounts to help folks at a time when they were not earning as much as before. Silly me!

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