Life in Retirement: Being a senior is subjective

I had a meeting in a town an hour away last week and while I was circling the small Main Street looking for parking, I saw a sign on a building that read: Seniors (45+) Activity Centre. When did 45 year-old people become seniors? Didn’t that used to be middle age? Maybe they needed to widen the net to attract a few more people for their activities. After all, labeling these latter stages of life seems to be very subjective.

Earlier stages in life had super-sharply defined milestone ages. I was allowed to start babysitting and making my own money at age 12 and got my Learner’s Permit the day I turned 14. Remember signing up to take the test for our Driver’s License as close as possible to our 16th birthdays? And, of course, turning the big 18 gave us (legal) access to bars. Those were all major life landmarks, and they all came surprisingly close together. Then there seemed to be many decades of ages that simply came and went as a matter of course.

But then the idea of becoming a Senior began dawning. There were discounts at stores to be had, certain gathering spots that would open to us and, the granddaddy of them all, the ability to order from the Seniors Menu. The Seniors Menu seemed like a little exclusive club! I mean, it looked like a smaller version of the main courses listed earlier in the menu at our favourite diner, but with an added coffee or tea and dessert – all for a lower price.

I mean, count me in! At that time, the age of 55 seemed to be the universal threshold for becoming a senior for such a purpose and I waited patiently for my time to join the club. I’d cast glances to that back page of the menu to see what I would have ordered from the Seniors Menu if I had the right that day. Then my 55th birthday finally arrived and I walked triumphantly into the diner, turning immediately to the well-memorized back page.

“It’s my birthday and I can order from the Senior’s Menu,” I declared to the waitress.

“Oh, we just let anyone order from there if they want to,” she replied nonchalantly.

Oh I see, I thought, feeling let down. All those wasted years. That’s when I knew that being a senior was subjective. It’s a state of mind that we can, if we’re fortunate with good mental and physical health, choose to grab hold of or choose to postpone. Now that realization was a very nice 55th birthday gift!

Sandy Bexon is stepping into retirement after over 35 years as a communications professional, reporter and writer. She lives in Red Deer.

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