Do seniors deserve senior discounts?

Across North America, one of the perks of growing older is that senior discounts suddenly become available. From local restaurants to dry cleaners, public transit and hotel chains, many vendors across Canada and the United States offer discounted rates to older people.

According to a 2008 Washington Post article, senior discounts began in North America during a period of economic difficulty for older people, and when they had less disposable income than younger age brackets. As a result, senior discounts were created to help equalize different parts of society.

Senior discounts can save significant money

However, that economic disparity has disappeared, and no longer are seniors the most economically disadvantaged age demographic in the United States.

From 1984 to 2009, according to the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by people aged 65 and older rose 42 per cent. Conversely, in the same time period, the median net worth led by people under the age of 35 not only did not increase, it declined by a significant 68 per cent.

Even in just the last few years, in the wake of the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances found that after the 2007-2009 recession, households led by someone aged 65 to 74 suffered less financial pain than any other age bracket.

So if statistics consistently show older people in the United States tend to have significantly higher median net worth than their younger counterparts, does that mean it is time to retire the senior discount?

Writing for USA Today last year, columnist Don Campbell caused waves with his article, ‘Why we should kill senior discounts,’ and argued that today’s Baby Boomers and seniors should not be recipients of lower prices at the expense of the rest of the population.

“The top income-earning years for most professional and skilled workers are from about age 50 to about age 62,” Campbell wrote. He added that senior discounts create a situation where “people who are making the most money and have the highest net worth are in effect being subsidized in the marketplace by a generation 20 and 30 years younger that often is struggling to pay off student loans, establish a career, start a family and buy a first home.”

What do you think? Do older people deserve to receive discounts off goods and services because of their age, or does their relatively healthy financial position render such discounts unfair? Tell us in the comment section below: