Writing Out Loud: #OlderAmericans

Writing Out Loud / George Stahl

#OlderAmericans. It is a new movement that has been going on for along time. It just seems new because no one remembers it is real. The movement, or frame of mind, in the United States actually saw its start back in the 1950s when an older man living in the Midwest decided that enough was enough. He was having breakfast at his favorite diner along the highway, and when the bill arrived at his table, the man looked up at the waitress (before the #Servers’ movement) he smiled politely and cleared his tobacco scarred throat, and simply said, “No!”

After begging for the elder gentleman’s pardon, she gasped and asked him, “What did you say?”

“No,” he repeated. Then he added. “I…we are tired of paying the same prices for our food as the rest of America. We have done far more for this country, and for the way of life you youngsters enjoy than you will ever know. The least you can do to show respect and appreciation for us is to give us our food at a reduced price, accompanied by a smile and a thank you,” he explained.

The waitress held up the check, turned to the counter and yelled for the manager. “Look, old guy, I can’t reduce anything for you, but maybe you can tell the manager your idea. Let’s see how that works,” she smiled, chewing her gum. The older man agreed, and when Mike, the manager came over, he proceeded to give his understanding of the situation. Mike’s answer, after carefully, and for some time, contemplating the old guy’s reasoning, leaned over and slid the check on the table in front of the man.

“Pay it, Pops. Or wash dishes. I don’t care, it’s all the same to me,” he smiled. “But no discount for being over middle age. Got it?”

The old man leaned back in his booth, he smiled, he edged his way out and proceeded to roll up his sleeves. “You got an apron, I presume,” he said.

“What’s your name, old man?” Mike the manager asked.

“It’s Imma, Imma Paylesso,” the old man responded, “It’s Italian.”

Imma washed dishes for over an hour that evening. Word got around about what he had done, and before too long, small groups of men and women were meeting in secret, staging demonstrations and refusing to pay full price for food, goods, and even services. The population known as ‘the elderly’ were gaining a voice. Business owners, storekeepers and service organizations were feeling pinched, and when the elderly stopped patronizing their businesses, they looked to the younger customers to pick up the slack. The problem there was, these working class, family raising, mortgage paying millennials with huge car payments were even more on a fixed income than their elderly counterparts.

What was the world to do? “We offer ‘Senior Discounts,’” a nationwide grocery store announced. Discounts on their food and other goods in the store for people of a certain age. ‘Seniors.’ A new term, a new, real group (now that they had a label) and a new world in the grocery industry. A true breakthrough, and an answer to avoid a possible uprising of elderly people across the country.
However, in order not to lose too much income, the grocer had to apply a restriction on the discounts. What was a good age to call someone a senior? Seventy-five years old. That was good, then the odds were not against the merchant. There had to be a lot more people under 75 than over that would use the discounts. Unfortunately, the elder population saw differently. To them, between 55 and 65 years old was a good place to start as a senior. The grocer came back with 60 as the youngest oldest, 55 was way too young. A compromise was reached, and a revolution was diverted, and a new age of doing business came to be.

In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Bill, an aide for elder citizens to cope, and to not to have to worry about the devastation that took place in the 1932 depression of not repeating itself. Then, in 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare Bill, and the elderly, at 65, had medical insurance. It is not clear when the Senior Discount came onto the scene, but as has been proven in the past, the accurate history of something or some one does not necessarily have to be documented for it to be accepted as true.
Look around you, there is a Senior Discount for just about everything now a days.

If you are a senior citizen and you buy goods, food, use a service, or get a haircut, you are bound to get a discount. At first, you might feel a little shy in asking. The first thing that does of course is tell the guy behind the counter that you are a Senior Citizen, and old guy. Some people can find that a little daunting. Well, get over yourself and claim that discount. It gives the rest of us a bad name if you don’t. Own your age. You don’t have to act it, but you do have to acknowledge it. At least when it comes to this. What you do, how old you say you are, to others in private, who cares? But in the public domain, the realm of business and not paying full price, don’t mess it up for your fellow geezers. You may not feel like you need to save the money, but we do.

It seems that for many, Roosevelt’s Social Security and Johnson’s Medicare don’t cut the nut. We also need Imma’s attitude of paying less for the same. So, fellow Senior Citizens, band together and embrace the age you have, the experience you have grained, and the wisdom you have to offer and join with us under the banner…#OlderAmericans.
May is National Older Americans Month! Happy discounting!

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Sun.
George Stahl can be reached at stahl_george@yahoo.com