Reader writes: Seniors a growing force in Clayton

January 31, 2014 

What is a senior, and are politicians listening?

Kudos to Amanda James for her excellent article in the Jan. 26 Clayton News-Star focusing on the serious problem facing the Clayton Center For Active Aging. The article also points out an even bigger problem for seniors. Who are we? How do you identify us?

Humans are social animals. We like to identify with a group or groups. Why else are there country clubs, women’s clubs, Rotary, Cosa Nostra, etc.? The article uses “older adult” four times and “senior” or “seniors” 15 times. By definition (Wikipedia), there is no such animal as an older adult. An adult is already the older. He or she may be classified by age – such as adult age 18-21 or adult age 55-59 – but not as older. Older than what?

The more common term today is senior (Wikipedia). I am old school. I agree with Judge Judy. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. But where do you draw the line? How do you identify the duck? Simple. Let’s call all older adults 50 and older seniors.

For 40 million Americans, membership in the AARP provides a badge. Membership and its benefits are open to all seniors on their 50th birthday. The last of the Baby Boomer generation turns 50 in 2014. (Senior Boomers will total 76 million citizens.) They become eligible for AARP membership and the AARP senior discount offered by a large number of business owners and merchants.

AARP members receive a lower rate at the Comfort Inn in Clayton. Sadly, however, they will not receive any discount from the fees charged by the Clayton Parks and Recreation Department for the newly offered adult painting class – they are still just adults.

The AARP card is my identifier. I flash mine all the time. I am recognized. I save money. I get special deals and considerations. I have status. I belong. If you saw the movie “Meet the Fokkers” and recall the scene with the Florida sheriff’s deputy, you know what I am saying.

Another visible identifier in Johnston County is the 2014 Senior Games T-shirt. The age requirement has been reduced to 50. This points out another problem caused by the lack of a common identifier. An older adult age 50 can compete in bowling in the Senior Games at Rainbow Lanes but cannot bowl as a member in the Senior League at the same lanes. Inconsistency personified.

Be all that as it may, you do not have to be an AARP member or a Senior Games participant to qualify as a senior. Just be an adult 50 or older.

What is the relevancy of this for the 10,019 Clayton residents age 25 or over? In 2015, there will be 4,718 adults age 50 or over, based on 2010 Census data. At 47.1 percent of Clayton’s adult population, seniors will be the No. 1 adult age group in town. Add the newcomers 50 and older who have moved to Clayton since 2010 and it is pretty clear to me who the Town Council should be giving some immediate attention to.

If I were an elected official running for office in 2015, I just might want to read the letters the seniors wrote, take some action and start including quality-of-life improvement programs specifically for seniors in the 2014-2019 Strategic Growth Plan.

After the November 2013 election, re-elected Councilman Michael Grannis said he didn’t know what made the difference on Election Day. In November 2015, I suspect the difference will be more obvious.

Just watch how many wear their Senior Games T-shirt and flash their AARP card on Election Day that year.

David W. Carpenter


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