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Who are "seniors"?

Boarding the train at Union Station, the Amtrak gatekeeper called for seniors to pre-board as is their usual policy. Approximately half the waiting crowd got on, mostly very able-bodied far-from-elderly people who looked to be in their mid-50s and early 60s. One very non-old woman even said to her companion, "I love being a senior!"

Photo by happy-de-dooo on Flickr.

As baby boomers get older, more and more of the population is going to consist of "seniors" even though most of them won't be any less able than a 45-year-old. And on Amtrak at least, there's no check for who is a senior, nor even a sign or announcement about what age is eligible.

I'm all for having aging people of declining mobility pre-board, but do we really mean to give all the baby boomers preference over everyone else? What's the fair thing to do?

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Play to their sense of independence and pride. Eliminate calling for "seniors" to board early, and instead invite "those who need assistance or extra time" to board.

That way if you're 50 years old and in a jogging suit, it'll look funny if all of a sudden you're of limited mobility.

I don't think we're going to get to the point where we're carding people for extra time to board.

by Michael Perkins on May 9, 2008 3:15 pm • linkreport

"Seniors" has been successfully re-positioned and marketed to mean exactly the cohort you saw in the train station: Healthy, active people in their 60s and 70s.

The pre-boarding preference should be given to the disabled only. That seems to be the fair thing to do.

As train travel gets more popular, the operators may need to switch to assigned seating (already common on many European and Asian routes).

by Laurence Aurbach on May 10, 2008 9:21 am • linkreport

Is this something peculiar to Washington Union Station? I've never seen senior preboard at New York Penn or Boston Back Bay or Philadelphia 30th St or Atlanta. They don't even do it at Alexandria, one stop from Washington, even though they only open one train door there for coach passengers.

by jim on May 11, 2008 1:16 pm • linkreport

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