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September 20, 2011 > Being a senior

Being a senior

Submitted By Pat Danielson

Once upon a time, I was a senior in high school. We proudly wore our senior jacket and flaunted our senior ring. The height of our social lives was our senior trip, skip day (the occasion on which I have skipped) and attending the senior prom with our true love. Could anything be better?

After that, it was back to the bottom of the pecking order as a college freshman and, for some reason, becoming a senior only means the end of another educational hurdle to be followed by more education, work, marriage and life.

During the "middle" years, "senior" meant a higher level in our chosen field and better remuneration.

Then one sunny day, we collect our mail and there it is... the envelope from AARP offering membership of the world of "seniors." Suddenly, being "senior" does not seem such a good thing. Thoughts of social security, Medicare, 401Ks and retirement accounts rush upon us, followed by complete denial. Well, maybe an AARP membership is not such a bad thing; just look at those discounts.

We are happily "senior" for travel and car rental reservations; we are "seniors" when it is convenient. Restaurants confuse; most offer a senior discount anywhere after 50, then we see the limited senior menu and decide we are not ready for dinner at 4 p.m.

Somewhere around 62, we start to receive notices about Medicare and one's employer becomes more aggressive about how to retire. When we read about proposed cuts to Medicare and social security and the erosion of our retirement nest egg by poor market performance, "being a senior" becomes serious. We forget that 65 is an arbitrary age for eligibility. It does not mean you are a senior.

We start at the age of 17-18; being a senior is an accomplishment and the time spent reaching that milestone has been a happy one. "I'm still young. I still have much to do," one thinks to oneself on reaching the exalted status of "senior."

The question of "when does someone become a senior?" has no definitive answer. A lady in her 80s told me that age is merely a number; it is how one lives that is important.

So just who is a senior? What is that magic age? Will somebody please let me know when I become "a senior?"

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