“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” So said Mark Twain in the 19th century and yet, in the 21st century, age matters. We mark milestones, such as mine reached today: age 65. Officially a senior.
Retirement used to be mandatory when we became seniors. Since 2006 (later in some provinces), most of us are no longer compelled to retire at any age. Despite this change, just six per cent of Canadians continue to work full-time after age 65; the average retirement age is 62.
“Today’s 65-year-old has the same mortality and health that 54-year-olds had in 1947. So 65 really is approximately the new 55. It’s not just a joke on a card,” suggests Stanford economist John Shoven. But if 65 is 55, why do baby boomers still want the perks that go along with becoming seniors?
TO AWARD DISCOUNTS OR NOT?
One of my four brothers (Rick) requests humorous posts, but I’m not very funny. Another (Tim) asks for controversial ones, so here goes: governments should take into account household income before awarding discounts to seniors. Just because we turn 65, I and 5.7 million other Canadians age 65+ should not automatically be eligible for the following:
- reduced fare on municipal transit — sorely requiring additional funds;
- lower admission to concerts, theatres, museums and other cultural organizations — always in dire financial straits;
- discounts at Community Centres, BC Ferries (50% off for travel M-Th for 65+) and Via Rail (10% for 60+);
- and home owner grants for property taxes. In BC the grant for seniors reduces taxes up to $845 per year or, in a northern or rural area, to $1,045.
We get rewards simply for reaching a milestone. Don’t get me wrong. I favour financial support for low income seniors. But a 2006 study of Canadian seniors between 1980 and 2003 reveals the percentage in low income declined from 34.1% to 15.1% when measured using the before-tax Low Income Cut-Offs (LICO) and from 21.3% to 6.8% when measured using the after-tax LICO. Interestingly, BC and Quebec are home to the highest percentages of low income seniors. In 2007 about 12,000 of Vancouver’s 77,000 seniors had before-tax income below LICO. Many thousands would not receive discounts if an eligibility limit was set, for example, by declaring only seniors with household incomes under $100,000 automatically benefit when turning 65.
I suggested to Glen I would not change my current transit card to a senior’s one but he rightly pointed out my proverbial drop in the ocean won’t make a difference. While discounts remain in place, I and others may as well take advantage. Yet, if we don’t ride public transit or embrace culture at adult rates, we won’t start now at reduced ones. To appease my conscience, I will help sustain culture through membership fees, frequent attendance and charitable donations.
When it comes to businesses, however, I welcome my senior’s deals at grocery stores, The Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart, Cineplex etc. And I endorse no fee accounts for seniors at major Canadian banks. Given the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar, claiming discounts in the US makes good cents. Seniors overrun Fry’s Food & Drug Stores for a 10% discount on the first Wednesday of each month.
For public services and cultural organizations, seniors’ discounts should be based on need. For commercial enterprises, discounts constitute good business. •