‘I’ve earned it.’ Or have they? Are senior discounts deserved?


Milestone birthdays (50, 60 and older) lead to discounts from some vendors. Senior discounts emerged in the 1960’s as a way to help retired people with meager savings but as people are living longer some of the discount programs may be enjoyed for 40 years. Some are questioning whether such discounts should be strictly based on age or if they should be income based. Many seniors in MA would qualify for means-tested discounts as 61% of single older adults have incomes that fall below the cost-of-living measure called the Elder Economic Index. For the complete article, Follow our link to the Boston GLOBE.

‘I’ve earned it.’ Or have they? Are senior discounts deserved?

By Robert Weisman | Boston GLOBE

For a frugal tribe of bargain-hunting seniors, scarfing up the potpourri of newly available discounts can take some of the sting out of a milestone birthday.

Turning 50 means activating an AARP member card to save 15 percent at Denny’s. The big six- oh shaves 30 percent off tickets at AMC movie theaters. And octogenarians ski for free at Bretton Woods, a New Hampshire resort dubbed “Medicare Mountain” by its grizzled regulars.

“I’ve earned it,” said Justin O’Connor, a 66-year-old Woburn resident who estimates he saved $75 last year on daily pilgrimages to the local Dunkin’, where he gets 10 percent off his extra large decaf coffee.

But some question whether senior discounts are warranted in an era when many of those enjoying them are relatively well off, while large numbers of younger folks strain under the weight of student debt and labor in a gig economy bereft of benefits.

David Wallis, who leads the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit that supports journalism focused on inequality, argues that the deals for seniors are a relic of an earlier time. He calls for replacing them with income-based discounts for people of all ages.

“The senior discount should be radically rethought,” Wallis said. “Let’s say you have a very comfortable lifestyle. Do you deserve cheap seats at the movie theater?”

Extending deals to discount-deprived younger people could also help businesses reach out to a valuable market, he said. And if discounts were extended more broadly, it might lessen the stigma for baby boomers who are reluctant to accept them because they don’t want to think of themselves as old.

Ben Brown, founder of the Association of Young Americans, which advocates for people between 18 and 35, said his group offers discounts to members on everything from sports events and concerts to Lyft rides and Megabus tickets.

“Older Americans are not the only ones struggling,” Brown said. “The cost of education has exploded over the past 15 years, and the student debt crisis has reached epidemic proportions. We absolutely see the need to create new discounts for younger folks who are struggling.”

Indeed, many can’t afford to buy homes or save money. Data from Young Invincibles, a research and policy group, show that young adults today earn $10,000 a year less than their counterparts did in 1989. Read More

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