Don’t stop there, however, as senior discounts aren’t always the cheapest option. Sometimes, other discounts or promotions will offer greater savings. It pays to search the Internet and shop around.
“The best advice is for consumers to compare the different available rates based on what they qualify for, and book the one that works best for them,” said Jennifer de la Cruz of Miami, a spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Lines, which offers senior discounts on some trips.
While many of the senior perks are marketing moves by businesses, it’s a win-win as more than half of seniors really need to stretch their dollars.
There are about 76 million baby boomers in the United States — those born between 1946 and 1964. Of them, about 41 million, or 14 percent, are over 65.
Financially, a lot of them are in rough shape. More than 23 million Americans over age 60 are financially “insecure,” according to the National Council on Aging, based in Washington. That’s the term the private nonprofit uses to describe a single senior who make $28,725 or less per year, said Jean Van Ryzin, NCOA spokeswoman.
“A lot of times all it takes is one life event to push them down into poverty,” she said. “They fall and break their hip. They lose their job. They have to take in a family member.”
The agency offers a free tool on its website, Benefitscheckup.org, that helps those 55 and older find programs for which they might qualify. So far, the group has helped nearly 4 million people find more than $14 billion in benefits, including assistance with food, health care and medications, said Van Ryzin.
“This is beyond discounts of just getting 10 percent off your meal,” she said.
Mento offers another piece of advice: The cheapest deal isn’t always the best deal.
“The AARP is very interested in offering the best value — sometimes that can mean the lowest prices, sometimes it means that there are safeguards,” she said. For example, “Our auto insurance may not be the lowest rate, but you will never be canceled.”
Mento, 53, said she uses senior discounts all the time. She recently used them for her hotel and rental car in Boston, where she was attending AARP’s semi-annual Life@50+ National Event & Expo.
Miller, the columnist, turned 50 this year. He hasn’t taken advantage of any senior discounts yet.
“Personally, I’m not too crazy about getting older,” he said.