Seniors Will Tell You What

Its Like To Be A Senior

Its time for continental breakfast at my favorite beach resort. I sit with the over-70s crowd; I figure theyre just the ones to tell me what to put in this article about seniors.

But wait. Even before the orange juice service, each one denies being a senior. (Each one laughingly seems to think the rest of us are seniors, however!) I press on regardless. I still need to know: What is it like to be a seniorin the seniors own words?

(And what, therefore, do insurance and financial services professionals need to know about this market?)

Finally, one lady pipes up. “Ill tell you what its like for a live-alone female: They all take advantage of us.” And a gentleman says: “As soon as I was 65, I got 10 times as many phone calls from people wanting to put siding on my house [never needs painting you know!] or new-fangled gutters [never clog!].”

One even produced a poem: “Why number age? The number has but little worth. It does not tell how well you think or feel, or how your shoulder fits lifes wheel.”

A very serious question then comes up: What is the age to qualify for senior discounts? At this point, my entire group suddenly decides that they qualify and are seniors after all. Now, I am starting to get some serious help.

The coffee and Danish pastries arrive; bagels are the option. Someone asks: “What are we going to do with the rest of our lives? We know were going to be around and healthy for a long time!”

There is a chorus of agreement from the table. The real problem of seniors had been found: “And whos going to help us figure it all out?”

One wag suggests: “Lets find a counselor who knows how to book cruises.” (Laughter)

The waiters come and take the dishes away. But no one leaves the table. The thoughts fly out. What is it like to be a senior?

Its having abandoned person syndrome; suffering from computer illiteracy (getting ever worse); and being on the outside, looking in. Its wandering through the impenetrable jungle of Social Security/retirement/insurance plans and wondering how long is this to go on?

Its wondering where to go for advice and counsel.

I say, “Anyway, you all look great. No health problems to worry about!” (Hilarious non-believing laughter). The common ailments all come up: arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, enlarged prostate, osteoporosis. “Still no problem. Get a grip!” (Very subdued laughter).

Time for the morning rest cure. They all leave. Most go for a walk on the beach. The white sand is bright. The emerald sea sparkles. The palm trees rustle. All appears well.

Later, back in my room, the phone keeps ringing. (“Land line,” of course. Seniors know little of cell phones.)

“Be sure to get the story right! Be sure to send us copies! We are the story!”

John M. Bragg, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, is actuarial consultant at John M. Bragg and Associates, Atlanta; past president of Society of Actuaries; and past CEO of Life Insurance Company of Georgia. You can e-mail him at nbk@mindspring.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 16, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.