Tripping It

Lehighton (PA) Times News

October 28, 1969

Senior Power

The top has finally been blown off the entire demonstration and protest movement theory. It has come full-cycle and it had better be reckoned with immediately, because there is only one holdout left (the middle-age, middle-class collective individual), and he is becoming very, very unnecessary.

We have witnessed demonstrations, protests, and discontent from poor black and while people, from dissatisfied students, and from concerned housewives, each wanting to push some action that would put a few more building blocks on their idea of what utopia would—and could—really be like. The ultimate has happened, and the crack in our great society, our advanced civilization, is showing up as a full-fledged rending apart.

The senior citizens are rebelling.

Under the banner of SENIOR POWER our senior citizens, who are always quite active in civic affairs and who are in the vanguard of many of our most humanitarian movements, have decided that it is time to express their discontent.

Four thousand of them gathered last week at a Manhattan Center to ledge their protest against their particular sore point in our modern world. For militants it is the lack of recognition, for students it is the war, for housewives it is the price of food; and for the elder statesmen of our America, it is the rising price of living as opposed to a stable and unfluctuating standard of income.

Their complaints, as are many of the complaints we hear today, seem only too justified.

In New York, which is some eleven percent above most other metropolitan areas in living costs, it takes $4,407 a year to sustain a retired couple with a moderate standard of living. This is a rise of some $398 over 1967. Their Social Security income, of course, has not risen to meet the new demands of the hungry cash register that greets them at every turn.

The “official” sources estimate that it is possible for a retired couple to live on $2,947 per year. Apparently the researchers who made that estimate haven’t tried to live in New York City lately. Or perhaps they discount such items as food and heat from the budget.

The seriousness of the situation is complicated by the fact that most people look to their retirement as a time when they will have the opportunity to do many of the things that they did not have time to do while they were caught up in the work-a-day world of materialistic America. And they have every right to think that way. They deserve to have some time to spend doing what they want to do, and to have some money to do it with, once they’ve retired. They’ve worked some fifty years or more in most instances, and they certainly deserve a bit of sunshine in their twilight years.

It is a sad state of affairs when the military can spend millions of dollars on project contracts that they later cancel out of and then have nothing to show for the time and millions of dollars spent, while a senior citizen has to save for weeks to go to a movie or to buy a new suit of clothes.

If the Senior Power movements go the way of the other protest movements, though, we cannot help but feel pity for the seniors.

The elder people have gained, with their years of putting up with and living with life, a certain very basic logic about things, and should a confrontation come about at some future date between a picket line of senior citizens and a battle line of police, there are many a police officer who is going to be as unable to cope with simple logic in demands as he has been unable to cope with high-minded philosophical reasoning from theology students; and he is going to be as unable, behind the red film of anger over his eyes, to see a resemblance between the elder couple facing him and his own parents, as he has been unable to see the resemblance between the irate students and his own children.

And the seriousness of the situation lies very deeply entrenched in the fact that students and militants are short-burning fuses who burn with a bright glow and then retreat to regroup; seniors, though, burn with a very steady fire that has been fed by sixty or seventy years of life, and they aren’t the type of people who give up anything easily.

Public officials are turning their backs on demonstrations, trying to look the other way in the face of public opinion. If the present rate of involvement of protesting groups keeps up, they’ll have no place to turn to hide their heads. Especially when they look into the face of their own parents over the Thanksgiving turkey.