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River Town Chronicles: In the age of age discrimination

I just filled out a survey, and I’ve never felt so deflated.

Let me explain. Every week a new online edition of a heralded literary journal appears on my laptop. Ordinarily, I revel in the prestigious magazine’s sampling of poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews.

A few weeks ago, the editors promised to place my name in a raffle for a chance to win one of their T-shirts. All I had to do was complete their survey. Far out! I clicked on it, and up popped the question – What is your age? A.) 25-34 B.) 35-44 C.) 45-54 D.) 55-64 E.) 65 and over.

Those of you youthful enough to answer A through D won’t feel my pain. However, just having turned Medicare age, I begrudgingly chose E.

“Get over it, Rick,” you’re thinking. “Sixty-five is the new 62.”

Don’t you get it? The brackets discriminate against seniors! You young’uns safely ensconced in terminal brackets enjoy the promise of advancement. After 10 years of predictable spending and buying habits, you graduate, walking across the bracket commencement stage. You anticipate the next decade like adventurers bound for an undiscovered country.

The only undiscovered country 65-and-overs can anticipate is Hamlet’s, from which “no traveler returns,” and he’s not soliloquizing on long grocery checkout lines. Our die, so to speak, is cast.

See? The survey puts my lot’s lot into a mental and physiological dead end (no pun intended). The option “65 and over” suggests we’re all the same vintage, helpless to turn tannic or evolve full-bodied, our tastes undifferentiated as water in two Evian bottles.

Surveys have never upset me before. I used to think: “Oh, yeah, 65-and-overs, identical kernels on a dry husk’s corn cob. Wonder what they do for fun besides eat, sleep and repeat ‘what’dja say?’ all day.”

Well, let me tell all you bigoted survey designers, I’ve been to the mountain! I’ve looked over! And I’ve seen a promising blend of septuagenarians and octogenarians. Even some centenarians. We old fogies might share our insurance, income and arthritis, but each of us is unique as flakes in a snowstorm.

Let me rephrase that. We’re not all flakes, even though some of you cushy-cozy in your lower-age brackets might perceive us as so. The proof is in the pudding, and even though pudding may be all we can chew, we reject being lumped together as one (except when it comes to senior discounts on movie tickets and merry-go-rounds).

Oh, why bother griping about this? Most old folks don’t care about discrimination; we’re too busy filling out – and swearing at – complex, confusing and contradictory medical forms. That is, once we find them online after an hour searching for the computer’s “on” button, indistinguishable from the surface surrounding it.

By the way, gentle reader, you can attest that I don’t suffer from any age-related mental impediments, right?

Now, if I can just locate this laptop’s return bar, and find where to insert my onion skin typing paper ...

• Rick Holinger lives in the Fox Valley where he’s taught high school since 1979. His poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals. He founded and facilitates two local writers groups, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. Contact him at

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