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November 16, 1995

When a body reaches that stage of life called senior citizen, certain things begin to happen. Not all of them are wonderful and magic, but some are nice. Movie tickets are a little more reasonable, restaurant menus offer a special bill of fare, and Boy Scouts provide street crossing escort services. Less is expected from you, and as you soon find out, there's a good reason for that reduced expectation. Most of that stuff is OK, if you don't stop to ponder too long on the reason for it.

Even if you are not yet in that esteemed senior citizen category, I have something you may find amusing. It came to me recently from a friend who found it in the Weekly Merchandising Bulletin of Affiliated Food Stores, Inc. The piece is entitled "What Is a Senior Citizen?" Here it is:

A senior citizen is a person who can recall the name of his third grade school teacher, but can't remember where he put his glasses 10 minutes ago. He finds steps steeper, hills longer and he gets winded playing checkers. His back goes out more then he does. His knees buckle but his belt doesn't.

He's been around a long, long time. In fact, he was here before television, jet travel, computers, open-heart surgery and the pill ... before panty hose, Xerox, Ann Landers, robots, bots, instant coffee and vitamin pills ... before ball point pens, Snoopy, satellites, Johnny Carson, pacemakers, word processors, yogurt, Boy George, zip codes and the 40-hour week.

To his generation, time sharing meant togetherness, not short stays in condos. Hardware was a store that sold nuts and bolts. Fast food was what they ate during Lent. Cleavage was something butchers did. "On time" meant punctuality, not deferred payments. Bunnies were small rabbits, not Playboy girls.

In his day, kids brought teachers apples instead of driving them bananas. Window sills held flower boxes, not air conditioners. Only astronomers and bacteriologists talked in terms of billions. The air was clean and sex was dirty. People got married first, then lived together. Closets were for clothes, not coming out of. Grass was for lawns. Coke was a refreshing drink. Pot was a cooking vessel. Rock was something they did in a chair.

When the senior citizen was a teenager, dancing was done with the feet. The only dirty books in the library were dusty ones. A bureau was a piece of furniture. Rockets were just part of a fireworks celebration. Folks at the dinner table counted their blessings instead of calories. The word "fallout" was only a barbers expression. Russia was known for its caviar instead of its baloney. Suppertime was geared to Dad's homecoming instead of the kids' TV programs. The three R's were readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, not rape, riots and robberies. Then, it was more important what a girl measured up to than what she measured out to.

Today, the senior citizen is trying to live on a fixed income in an environment of inflation, a roller coaster market, and skyrocketing health care costs.

He is trying to cope in a pump-it-yourself, plastic fork, allyou-can-eat-for-$4.95 world ... where a fellow who can't read or write can make $1 million a year if he's tall and adept at tossing a big ball through a hoop. And where a guy who can't carry a tune can attract a paying crowd of 40,000 if he wiggles to wild noise and wears one earring, chains, worn-out jeans and dirty sneakers.

Is it any wonder today's senior citizen is a pooped and puzzled procrastinator?