The following blog post was written by Stitcher and consumer editor, David Schwoegler. David has been covering travel, food-and-beverage, and automotive beats since Noah was a midshipman. Retired from the University of California, he’s currently a staff writer and food-and-beverage columnist for The East Bay Monthly Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCOUNTING SENIOR MOMENTS
“Like the snake that swallowed a pig.” That’s a simile for the baby-boom generation moving through our population. Eager to serve increased demand, for several decades marketers have focused on the economic stimulus created by boomers.
In the late 40s it was suburban housing developments for expanding families. In the 50s it was station wagons and new public schools. In the 60s and 70s it became junior colleges and universities. Then housing in the 80s and 90s.
After the new millennium dawned, millions of Americans passed the mid-century mark, and the senior discount emerged and flourished. Now airlines, food chains, department stores, shopping malls, transit districts, and even the federal government are luring the post-war generation with special senior prices.
Age eligibility for senior rates varies. Numerous hotel chains within the hospitality industry set the age at 60. Many Americans are surprised to learn that senior rates start as early as age 50. That’s when AARP, using Social Security data, mails invites to join their fold. After paying the dues, an AARP card brings countless discounts.
There’s good news and bad news about what had been considered the best available senior bargain. For many years U.S. Park Service sold its Golden Age Passport for a one-time $10 fee to citizens 62 or older. This lifetime pass was good for a carload of guests at facilities operated by the Park Service-but not at contractor-operated parks like Yosemite. The bad news: While existing Golden Age Passports continue to be honored, new ones are no longer issued.
The good news: There’s a lifetime replacement for the same $10 fee at age 62 that’s honored by more agencies. The Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation accept the Federal Government’s Senior Pass at sites where entrance fees are charged. See here.
But 65 year remains the threshold for other bargains. That includes the San Francisco Bay Area’s Senior Clipper Card, honored by 14 local transit agencies, including BART, MUNI, AC Transit, Sam Trans, and San Francisco Bay ferries. As is the case with most senior applications, proof of age must be provided. See here.
Senior discounts may be one of the rare instances where things get cheaper with time. But then, they may not always be the best discount. Never assume that a senior rate or discount produces the lowest price. Ask what other rates or discounts may provide a better deal. Are there other terms or condition, like “space available” or “early-bird senior special?” Can the senior discount be combined with other specials? When traveling, are there discount coupons available on travel Websites, in site-specific flyers, or in the local tabloid press?
Discounts avoid spending more than you have to, but comparison-shopping remains the most important consumer tool.
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