What does age matter? Quite a bit sometimes.
The difference of a year or two could be the difference between gold and silver medals at the 2008 Olympics where the United States women were relegated to second place by a Chinese team whose top performers are alleged to be under the minimum age of 16. How many areas of human endeavor can you think of where a 14-year-old has an advantage over a 16-year-old? Gymnastics is apparently one of those areas.
Age matters to the rest of us, too. With a November birthday, I was the youngest or second-youngest person in my class throughout elementary, junior high and high school. Being the youngest person in a group was so natural for me, I barely noticed.
But within my family, I played a different role. As the eldest of four sons I had the dubious distinction of raising my parents, acting as a sort of lab rat while they – also first-borns in their respective families – worked at perfecting their parenting skills. My brothers, of course, benefited from my pioneering efforts.
As I left the family nest, though, age became less of an issue as I passed the milestones of voting eligibility and legal alcohol purchase and consumption. I remember the first time I wasn’t “carded,” at the age of 23. I was elated by that experience at an Illinois liquor store until I realized that the clerk had casually extracted a $10 fee for the “privilege” by shortchanging me.
That was about it for the better part of three decades until I was invited to join AARP on the 50th anniversary of my birth. Frankly, I had no idea one could get so old at such a young age, but I warmed to the idea of senior citizenship over the next few years when I considered the perks of discounts and free fast-food coffee that beckoned.
But, as America has aged, those discounts have become more elusive. After receiving my first department store senior discount at age 55, the store yanked it away by changing the qualifying age to 62. This happens a lot these days as the definition of “senior citizen” has become something of a moving target.
Some places, such as my local senior center, don’t define the term at all. “If you think you’re a senior, you are a senior,” was the center manager’s response when I asked about it. That works for me.
Flickr photo courtesy of PittCaleb.