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Front Page » January 12, 2012 » Senior Focus » The age definition
Published 962 days ago

The age definition


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Some people really care about others knowing what age they are, but it has never bothered me much.

I have had friends who were devastated when they turned 30, thought they were ready to be put out to pasture when they were 40, ready to be relegated to the rocking chair when they turned 50, and started to give away all their stuff when they turned 60.

On the other hand, I have had (and still have) friends who are 80 that act like they have 50 more years of life ahead of them, are busy, and some even athletic.

Age truly is a state of mind. There are milestones in a life that can be evaluated by events or they can be analyzed by that made up creation we humans use, called the passage of time.

Some people seem old at 20, while others are young at 70. So what is a senior and at what age does being a senior come into effect?

A few years ago a well set friend of mine's wife gave him a party for turning 60. It was a pretty lavish affair at Little America in Salt Lake City and there were a hundred people there. She told me that the reason she gave him such a party is that "anyone who reaches 60 years old deserves it for living so long."

Last week I turned 60 years old, so now am I a senior? I actually have been asking that question for a lot more years than just the last one as I approached my birthday. AARP started sending me stuff in the mail when I was in my early 40s. When I turned 55 there were a number of places I went to eat that said I could order off the senior menu or would have given me senior discounts.

What has reminded me more about my age however had nothing to do with any kind of policy, but came from what was happening to people around me.

In my early 50s I saw people my age start to retire. These were not people who had made a million bucks overnight or had amassed fortunes over time, but average people, some I had known for years. That was my first inkling I was approaching some kind of milestone.

In the last couple of years I have had friends who are retiring now that worked with me 30 years ago that are much younger than me. In a couple of cases I was in the position who long ago that I was the manager that hired them into the jobs they eventually retired from.

Last week, for the first time in my life, I was really bothered by my birthday. When I was a senior in high school 60 seemed so old. But other than the fact I am not able to be as athletic as I was when I was that age, and I have a few aches and pains because of things I did at that age, I feel better than I ever have. My life is good, even if I have certain days when it isn't so great (and who doesn't). I am wiser, more confident and have less fear about the future than I did then.

So because of the clock and the calendar, am I now a senior citizen? Am I old?

Well as I thought about it before taking on this article, I realized there is a difference between being old, and being a senior. Being a senior is a function of time measurement, while being old is a state of mind.

But that senior thing can be perplexing. I had people tell me I was a senior when I turned 55, but I saw few of the official signs of it. Now that I am 60, am I a senior?

Well I thought I would go ask the people who really know; the management of the Carbon County Senior Center.

"We consider someone a senior when they turn 60," Debby Kobe, the director of the center told me on Wednesday morning.

Kobe also verified my belief that being a senior is in the numbers, and being old is in the mind.

"We have people who are registered here that we offer some kinds of services to that say they don't need those particular services because they aren't old enough," she continued." Some of those people are in their 70s and 80s."

While there I went ahead and registered as a senior citizen so I could use the center. While I may not go there all the time, I would like to take advantage of some of the things the almost new facility offers such as their exercise room, the library and maybe even lunch once in awhile.

So now I am a freshman senior citizen.

But even with that answer I was somewhat perplexed about being a senior because so much has been written and said about it. So I did some further research and found that the apparently there is no set age when a person becomes a "senior citizen" because it depends on many factors and what kinds of programs you are applying for.

The age requirements for federal and state programs and entitlements are established by legislative action.

So here is what someone that is 60 is eligible for:

*Social Security benefits to surviving spouse.

*Railroad Retirement Benefits.

*Local programs funded under the Older Americans Act.

*Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

At age 62 here are some of the things a person can apply for:

*Reduced Fare Program (transportation, public transit).

*Senior citizen federally subsidized housing and congregate housing.

*80 percent Social Security/Railroad Retirement benefits for retirees.

At age 65 people become eligible for:

*Full Social Security benefits (if income is less than $14,500).

*Medicare/Medicaid coverage.

*Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged And Disabled.

*Lifelong Credit Program

*Hunting and Fishing Licenses at a reduced fee.

* Tuition-free or reduced fee courses at some public institutions of higher learning and some private institutions.

*Senior citizen property tax deduction if eligible.

And once a person reaches 70 they can get:

*Full Social Security benefits regardless of the amount of earned income.

Of course the debate in Congress that has been going on and will be continuing this year and maybe for a long time to come could change a lot of these government programs. Bets are that the 65 benefits for social security will be moved to 67 or even 70. Other programs, particularly Medicare will also probably be altered.

But the answer to being a senior isn't just a registration, the ability to go to our local center or what programs one can register for. There are a lot of private business discounts and other types of things that use various ages to determine senior citizenship.

And there are responsibilities too. Those can be determined by the individual person, but the wisdom and skills you have learned throughout your life can be of benefit to a lot of people. For me being a senior isn't about slowing down, as much as it is to make decisions about changing pace and heading in new directions; directions which will help me to grow more.

Like anyone I would like to be 25, know what I know, have what I have and be able to do all that young mans stuff again. But the reality is that I can't. We live life in stages and often we don't recognize the stages we are in, until either something happens to us or we look back. We can't go back, but we certainly can go forward.

I remember when I turned 40, my oldest son who was 16 at the time said to me "Gee dad, I never want to old and 40 like you."

"Well son, you have two choices now that you are alive, " I replied. "Turning 40 at some point is better than any alternative to that you have now."

In some ways turning 60 is like I am entering college again.

I just hope I can be a good freshman senior citizen.

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