Coming Of Age Part II, Are We There Yet?

by Kevin Burton  

   Does she or doesn’t she?

   If you are of a certain age, that question is recognizable as part of an ad campaign for “Miss Clairol” hair coloring products.  The earliest ad I could find was from 1957. The campaign continued into the 70s.

   I brought you this memory and risked annoying you with the overused phrase “of a certain age,” to talk about an uncertain age. When I became a teenager I knew it and let everyone else around me know it too.

   But when does one become a senior citizen?

   My wife and I are in our late fifties. So to borrow from Clairol, “are we or aren’t we,” seniors? We’re not middle aged for sure.

  Surfing the net in search of the answer to the senior question is a fun romp you should try sometime, but (spoiler alert!) there is no definitive answer.

   When you get within sniffing distance of 50, AARP sends you a letter.  It is a true trauma for some. It’s a little like being served with papers demanding that you turn in your youth card.

   You can apply for a middle age card but there is math involved, starting with (2 x 50 = ?).

   According to Medicare you become a senior at 65. For government senior housing the age standards are 55 and 62.

   The IRS sets 59 ½ and 70 ½ as ages where certain rules for retirement accounts change. I stopped counting my life in half years at maybe seven or eight. Leave it to the IRS to bring that back again.

   KFC in Derby weighed in on the subject five years ago. They granted us a 10-percent senior discount without our asking about it.  We were in our early fifties then.

   Not sure why I even read the receipt, but when I showed the discount to my wife she let out a “HA!”  That’s the laugh she reserves for things that are really funny, like my being called for jury duty.

   “We’ve arrived!” she said. 

   Ninety-six percent of Baby Boomers turning 50 rejected the term “senior citizen” according to a 2010 survey conducted by Del Webb, a Phoenix-based company that maintains age-restricted housing communities in major cities nationwide.

   The survey sought the opinions of boomers turning 50 and those turning 64.  About half of the 64-year olds in the survey didn’t embrace the “senior” term either. 

   “Old is 15 years older than I am now,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, who in 1932, retired from the Supreme Court at the age of 90.

   People don’t usually say such things out loud, for then they would have to defend them. But their minds hold on to the notion for all it’s worth. That’s why we get vague definitions such as this from Google.

   “The age of a senior citizen varies according to the source….being a senior citizen may be based on your age, but it is not a specific age. In general, however, once you turn 55 you start to enter the senior age demographic.”

   If you’re in your fifties you can reject the senior label without raising too many eyebrows. But for me, I embrace it.

   When we decided to start attending Sunday School at our church we had six options. We agreed on “Senior Coed” as the place to be, but wondered, would our fifty-something credentials gain us entry into the group?

   The leader just chuckled when I asked about this.  I chuckle too.  In a label-happy age, I just can not rest until I have one to call my own.  It seems I’ve come of age, again.

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  1. This surely made me laugh a lot, Kev, and yes, I guess that must mean that I have arrived…a few years ago. I have heard most of my life that “age is just a number” and I mostly stick to that thought. More recently an older lady at church made a comment, “getting old isn’t for sissies”. Occasionally I subscribe to her theory. But every day, I am determined to be thankful for all that God has given to me, and remain content, no matter the number of the birthday or how this year of age is defined. Sometime I’ll have to share with you, the first place where I received a “senior discount”.



  2. Kevin, this is the best dissertation I have read on our Senior Citizen-ness (is that a word?). I don’t feel like a senior as I quickly approach my 70’s and yet – here I am! What is beyond Senior Citizen for us I wonder…….


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