National Senior Citizens Day Eclipsed

August 21 is National Senior Citizens Day. It’s a day set aside to support and honor senior citizens and to recognize their achievements and contributions to our communities. President Ronald Reagan began the day with a proclamation in 1988.

The definition of “senior citizen” varies from one group to another. AARP membership begins at age 50, but other organizations don’t recognize senior status until age 65 or even 70. The IRS doesn’t require oldsters to take minimum distributions from IRAs and 401(k) plans until age 70 and a half.

But supposedly the National Senior Citizens Day definition is age 60. Therefore, I qualify as senior.

Unfortunately, the National Park Service definition is age 62—that’s the age to get a cheap lifetime pass to the national parks. The price goes up on August 28 of this year from $10 to $80. ($80 is still a good deal, but not as good as $10.) My husband has his lifetime pass—in fact, he has two, because he forgot it one time, and it was cheaper to get another lifetime pass than to pay for a one-day admission to that site for two people. I’m a few months short of age 62, so I’ll have to hope he doesn’t forget his pass again. And that we always travel to national parks together.

I also qualify for $1 senior drinks at McDonald’s (which kick in at age 55), but I usually forget to ask. And I must not look sixty—only one McDonald’s order taker has ever volunteered to give me a reduced-price soda.

Suggestions on how to recognize Senior Citizens Day include several ways to spend quality time with seniors, such as

  • Starting conversations with seniors you encounter
  • Enjoying books, movies or games with senior loved ones
  • Undertaking a family history project with grandparents
  • Skype-ing with tech-savvy seniors
  • Visiting those you don’t see often

But don’t bother trying to connect with me this year. This year, all thoughts of celebrating Senior Citizen Day are eclipsed by . . . a solar eclipse.

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse is cutting a 70-mile-wide swath across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. And the partial eclipse will be visible for a much wider stretch on either side.

Our home in the Kansas City Northland is in the zone of the total eclipse, though we only get about a minute of totality, instead of the 2 minutes and 40 seconds that the central path of the eclipse will receive.

Rather than sitting on our deck, however, some friends, my husband, and I have plans to head a little farther north to increase the time we’ll be under the total eclipse. Projections are that millions of people will be heading for places where the total eclipse will be visible for two minutes or more. We’re heading for a county park where the totality will last just over two minutes. But I won’t tell you which park, in case you try to head there, too.

As someone who hates crowds and heavy traffic, I’m wondering whether leaving our house will be worth it. Is a two-minute period of totality so much better than one minute? Is it worth the inconvenience of overwhelmed roads and port-a-potties to ooh and aah for an additional 60 seconds?

But then, such thoughts make me sound like a curmudgeonly old-timer. Like a senior citizen. Surely, I’m not there yet.

I’ll let readers know later whether it was worth it.

Do you have plans to see the eclipse? Post your post-eclipse comments here.

Posted in Philosophy, Travel and tagged , , , , .


  1. I chose to work in the northland today instead of tomorrow in order to see it. It was cloud-covered mostly. I left to go a little farther south after the event. It took me 45 minutes to go 17 miles to my next stop on I-29. Fooey!

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