The Equitability of Full-Price Policies for Senior Citizens: A Reprise


  • John L. Crompton



Senior discounts, senior financial status, pricing, leisure agencies


The purposes of this article are to (i) review the current data relative to the economic status of seniors, (ii) analyze the appropriateness of the alternative age definitions of a senior used by park and recreation departments, (iii) identify reasons for resilience of senior discounts, and (iv) offer strategies for eroding them.The compelling reason for revisiting this issue is the growing emergence of seniors from being a relatively small fringe target market for leisure agencies to evolving as a central focus for their services. This shift reflects their increase in numbers, longer period of retirement, increased financial resources, and political influence. Their emergence makes the removal of senior discounts an increasingly important element in optimizing an agency’s revenue potential. Senior incomes come from four main sources: Social Security, earnings, private pensions, and interest from assets. All of these four sources have grown in recent decades. As a result, federal measures of poverty consistently show that those over 65 years of age on average are less likely to be officially classified as poor than those in any other age group Traditionally, 65 was the age at which people were defined as senior citizens. Examination of per capita median incomes and net assets among age cohorts suggests the rational age for senior discounts should be 75. However, rather than raise the eligibility age, many agencies have succumbed to political pressures and lowered it to 62, 60, 55, or 50. Despite these favorable changes in the financial status of seniors, it is still common for agencies to offer them substantial discounts. Three factors account for this: empathy, political influence, and emotional arguments. It is suggested that the most effective strategy for eroding or removing these discounts is to reframe the context in which they are viewed. Three primary ways in which this can be done are discussed: providing detailed financial information, comparing an agency’s discounts with those offered by other leisure service providers, and shifting seniors’ participation to off-peak times.





Legends and Legacies