A senior by any other name... or number 

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Suh, you have impugned mah honour. Ah demand satisfaction.

It is not my habit to respond to "Letters to the Editor" or other columnists taking issue with some trifle that appears on this page. I have my say, you have yours. On to more important matters... or less important matters.

But I have been sorely challenged by fellow Question scribbler, Nick Davies, to engage in battle in the arena of Bullshit Baffles Brains (BBB), an arena I am intimately familiar with. Nick, being both a practicing lawyer and former councillor, is, perhaps, even more familiar with it than I, but I'll accept that handicap with as much grace and equanimity as I am capable of, which probably isn't much.

For those few who might think some of what follows bears a striking resemblance to the brief Facebook joust Nick and I enjoyed, give yourself two points for remarkable — for this town — short-term memory. But don't be surprised if you learn more before the end of the page.

I shall let pass Nick's reference to me as an infamous author. The truth is, there are times when even the most seasoned writer attempts to search inaccessible memory cells in search of the correct word and, failing to come up with one, uses some other word as a placekeeper until he or she can hopefully pry the barnacles off that bit of memory. I have a great problem thinking of myself as infamous but I'm flattered enough at the choice of this particular placekeeper to bask in it, if only momentarily.

For those of you who aren't blessed with a particularly good memory, this all started because Nick wrote there were 2,000 seniors in Whistler. I replied, "That's nonsense." To which Mr. Davies retorted, BBB.

My bad. I thought this was a sun-rises-in-the-east proposition that didn't really require much more in the way of explanation than the only way you could get close to 2,000 seniors in Whistler is if you counted everyone 50 years of age and older. Since no one I know in that 50-65 age group considers themselves a senior, I believed "nonsense" was an adequate rebuttal.

But noooooo. Nick wanted, "...number(s) based on more reliable sources."


Despite Our Supreme Leader's distain for fact-based decision making and his wholesale gutting of the long form census, Statistics Canada is still pretty much the arbiter of, well, Canadian statistics. StatsCan defines a senior as anyone over age 65. Quelle surprise!

Service Canada, the folks who oversee the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement, all various forms of the monetary safety net put in place for seniors, doesn't specifically define what it considers a senior. But all those programs are geared to kick in at age 65. You can choose to take CPP at age 60, but if you do, the amount you get will be reduced by about 35 per cent of what you'd get at 65.

On the groovy left coast of Canada, it's safe to say the province of British Columbia considers you a senior at 65. Both B.C. Parks and B.C. Ferries have a senior discount available at that age. The B.C. Home Owner's Grant kicks in at that age. While the B.C. Property Tax Deferral Program is available to homeowners at age 55, there's no language in that program suggesting it's geared exclusively toward seniors. And there is something called the B.C. Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters that is available for 60-year-old elderly people. Draw your own conclusions.

In the United States of America — as with CPP — you can draw Social Security early, at age 62. But you can't have it if you're still working and make too much. And you'll get a reduced amount. Want the full amount with no income strings attached? Wait until you're 65.

Closer to home, if you want to get on a WAVE bus with a senior ticket you'd better be 65. Want to get a senior pass at Whistler Blackcomb? You can buy one when you're 64. But only if you turn 65 before March 30th of the ski season you're buying it for.

To be sure, there are businesses who will give you a "senior" discount earlier. But they're trying to drive business and I wouldn't consider them a "reliable source."

Not surprisingly — at least not surprisingly in a town rife with folks over 65 who will happily kick your butt on the mountain, grind you into dust on the bike trails and drink you under the table — Whistler's municipal government is pretty silent on what age is considered a senior. Scouring the muni's website, you're left scratching your head as to what age constitutes seniordom.

You can get into the WHA senior's housing at age 55, but that's because it's sort of a joint effort with the Mature Action Community, the source, I suspect of Nick's bold 2000 number. For the most part, the muni seems to have more or less abdicated seniors' issues to MAC who, let's be generous, has an interest in tossing out as large a number as possible.

The muni, on its website, says there are — and now I'm getting to that number Nick wanted — 9,824 permanent residents, five per cent of whom are over age 65. I'm not sure why they've singled out over 65, but it just might be because THAT'S THE AGE MOST PEOPLE USE FOR SENIORS.

While the muni doesn't call 65 and older seniors, they do state 82.8 per cent of Whistler's population consist of "working-age adults." How old are they? Age 15-64. Suggesting, perhaps, 65 and up is past working age, in other words, retirement age, senior age. Hope I'm not climbing out on too skinny a branch here.

That number is virtually identical with StatsCan's number for the 2011 census. Using their census figures, there were 1,975 people in Whistler age 50-plus. So if you seriously consider a 50-year-old a senior you are both close and, well, crazy. At least crazy according to any 50-year-old I've spoken to.

If you consider 60+ a senior, Whistler has 905. If you want to go with the flow and say you have to be 65 to be a senior, that number dwindles down to 495.

As for me, I'll be a bona fide senior this time next year. I won't feel like one and unless there's a good discount involved, I won't call myself one. But I sure as heck won't make the mistake of calling a 50-year-old one and I'll do my best to make sure the Whistler Housing Authority continues to work for affordable housing options for seniors not retirement plans for seniors, who want to cash out of market homes and jump the queue.

And as for this round of BBB, I'm guessin' I lost.



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