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(Un)Intelligent Design

Senior Discounts: A Rite of Passage

category_bug_journal2.gif Earlier this week, Colleen of Loose Leaf left a comment on my Getting Over Getting Older post about having recently received a ten dollar senior discount.

As serendipity in timing would have it, last Sunday I got my first senior discount too – at a movie theater. I had never asked for one before – hadn’t even thought about it - so I don’t know what possessed me to say at the ticket window, “one adult and one senior, please.” (ASIDE: I wish I’d said “elder.”)

It turns out that discount is no small change in New York City where movie tickets go for $11 a pop. The “elder” ticket cost only seven dollars, a savings which almost covered a grossly overpriced small bag of popcorn.

Colleen, who is about ten years younger than I, admitted to being a bit shaken by her first discount for age. I, on the other hand, sailed right through it without a quiver and have been wondering since then what other discounts I’m missing.

These two little rites of passage remind me that we don’t become old – or seniors or elders – in our minds overnight or on a certain birthday. Our perception of time is flexible, moving along at different rates of speed depending on circumstances, and minds can be hard things to change. We back into new definitions of ourselves slowly, I think, becoming accustomed to them gradually as other people and traditional markers outside ourselves – like photographs and senior discounts - reflect to us our passing years.

In the 20 months I’ve been writing Time Goes By, I’ve accepted my status – at least on paper – as a person of age, as an advocate for ending ageism and age discrimination, and for exploring what getting older is really like.

But what I had not done is feel that status of elderhood viscerally. I have yet to make it my own, so a part of my being that I don’t need to discuss it anymore - what Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters says Buddhists call “the ever-present awareness” of our inner selves.

I sense now, however, that I’m beginning to close in on it. Asking for the senior discount without a hiccup and taking pleasure in Elisa Camahort’s redefinition of me as “ElderBlogger Ronni Bennett” seem to be indications that acceptance in the wings. It took a long time in my youth to get past the feeling I was play-acting at being a grownup. The goal now is to become as certain an elder as I became an adult for so many decades.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll look into what other senior discounts are available. Saving a little money is a powerful incentive to attitude adjustment.


I went to a play at our local university the other night, and was stunned at the ticket-window when they asked for twelve-dollars (for a short student production). I said do you have senior discounts? The guy said "Depends." I said "I'm sixty-one." He said "I guess that'll do," and sold me a ticket for $8.
Happy with my savings, I didn't even notice my friend's reaction as she paid full-price for her seat. But when we sat down and she started talking about senior discounts, I realized she was surprised at either my age or my announcing it in a line full of strangers. She told me about her recently-deceased aunt, who throughout her seventies and eighties said "No," when asked by ticket-sellers if she was a senior.
My friend thought it was endearing and funny.
Call me humorless, but I'd rather save the money.

I recently watched Charlie Rose inerviewing author Joan Didian. She wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, about the death of her husband. Joan said that she didn't recognize herself as older until after her husband died. They both viewed each other as they always had been and saw through the chronilogical age they were, which I think happens often in families and marriages. After he died she didn't have the same reference point, someone who "saw her" that way and she "realized" she was elder.

I think my shock at getting an elder discount came from the fact that I'm "only" 55 (also my husband is 10 years I forget my age or try to). I didn't know 55 could be considered for a discount.

I actually wrote about getting the discount ( and my sister commented that she couldn't believe I told my age on my blog. I said...what the heck, in a few days it will be off the front page, into the archives, and no one will care or remember.

The returning theme on my blog is death and grief, which is closely related to the theme of aging and changing. I think both are fascinating we see society see us...and the fact that life is impermenant.

Something I've noticed through the years, Colleen, is that like Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, we do not notice long-term friends aging as the years pass.

We seem to always hold their physical appearance in our minds at the age they were when we met.

This came home to me shockingly not long ago when I old, old friend visited after we'd not seen one another for a couple of years. In that interim, he'd been through a serious illness that had aged him dramatically. Only then was I able to see what I'd not noticed through the years of our friendship.

I started getting senior discounts a couple of years ago and the first one was a movie theater. I asked when it started for seniors and found I qualified. From then on I always asked and sometimes I did and sometimes not. One girl told me they are not permitted to ask if you are eligible as some would be insulted; so it pays to inquire. I also like getting senior meals at restaurants when I qualify and they have them. The portions are usually a bit smaller and the prices lower.

The best senior discount for me came at 62 and it's to get into all National Parks for $10 for the rest of your life. (this one they ask for proof on) They also discount fishing licenses in many states at a certain ages. It pays to ask and I never felt any embarrassment at all. Because we tell someone we are 62, doesn't make us look like it-- or not look like it.

The mental "seeing" is always different from the physical, no?

Kman and I have known each other since 7th grade - maybe that's why we find each other so irresistible - we think we're teens!

I took my first senior discount several years ago, at a liquor store which offered 10% off on Tuesdays to customers 60 and over. When I took my purchases to the counter and requested the discount, the clerk eyed me somewhat suspiciously and asked for an ID. When he checked my license, the young man shook his head and said, "gee sir, you sure don't look it." I was walking on a cloud the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, merchants never ask me for the ID anymore. Dammit.

I was waiting in line at the movies one day when the woman in front of me said to the cashier, "you gave me to much change back," The cashier's response was that was the senior rate..

The customer was so mad she insisted on paying the full price! I guess she was not a senior and was insulted that she was taken for one.

My first senior discount was on my 55th birthday. It was at a restaurant and I was celebrating with friends. I quietly pointed to the Senior Menu and gave my order. Meanwhile my best friend of many years, started to argue with me about what I was doing. She kept insisting I was not old enough to order from the senior menu. What was to be a very cautious and quiet first attempt turned into a lively discussion of my age and left the waitress smiling and waiting for our orders. It is a birthday I will remember forever and I tell the story often, much to the chagrin of my friend.

Just read your comments on senior discounts and I feel obliged to share some information with you. I just entered my mid fifties, and my good friend Betty suggested that I join ARP and began taking advantage of senior discounts. When she told me about these discounts, I was excited. Old age never felt so good! That very afternoon I was taking my four year old granddaughter Hailey to a movie so I decided to ask for my first discount. In line with hundreds of young mother's and their kids, I stepped up to the window and proudly requested, "child and senior, please." Well, the young ticket seller asked to see my driver's license. Should I feel complimented or what? I smiled and whipped my driver's license out of my wallet for her to see, but she wiped that smile right off of my face with her comment, "I can't believe you're trying to sneak in theater on a senior's ticket." All the young mothers in line immediately shot me dirty looks. Suddenly, I felt like a criminal. Even my precious little graddaughter gave me the evil eye. "But I uh, I was only uh, . . ." I tried to explain, but the ticket seller told me I was holding up the line, so I took my granddaughter's hand, plopped my sunglasses on hoping to go unrecognized, and skulked into the movie theater like a common criminal. So beware, fellow seniors, better check out those age limits before you go for that discount! Turns out it was sixty-five at this theater.

Susan Wales

Ha! I have been getting senior discounts since I turned 55, at some places. Now that I am 65, I just dare them to suggest I am not eligible for the discount. It would give me great pleasure to whip out my license and show them proof!

I had a friend once who was completely and prematurely gray at age 50. People were always trying to give her a discount and she was insulted. I told her if someone wanted to charge me less for something because they thought I was older, I'd take it to cover the insult. After that, she always took the discount.

What's with this chronological age concern? First opportunity I had to take advantage of a "senior" (at 55)discount was at a restaurant I frequented. One night a new person was at the cash register. She carded me!! How exciting to have to prove I was old enough to qualify for the discount. I'd never before been carded, even in my youth, for a purchase of libation or anything else. Another experience to add to this journey I'm on. So, enjoy life's benefits when they're offered. That was a number of years ago ... "Life gets better with each passing day ... Love is either in your heart or on its way." (Those are some of the lyrics from a popular song of many years ago, but don't recall who wrote them to give them credit.)

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