Senior discounts help older Americans fight stubborn inflation


It was the free soft drink at Whataburger that got Melvin Schwartz hooked. Then he found out Chick-fil-A does, too.

“I hate paying $2 or $3 for a Coke,” he said the 75-year-old retired IRS agent whose senior discount also gets him 10 percent off his usual hungr-buster combo at Dairy Queen and nacho salad at Taco Bueno near his Dallas home.

Senior discounts have been around for decades. Now you have a moment.

Mention of “senior discount” by reviewers increased 36 percent from 2021 to 2022, according to data from crowdsourced review site Yelp. And AARP says a growing number of its more than 38 million members are taking advantage of gas, event ticketing and healthcare benefits.

For many older shoppers, scouting out promotions Saving a few bucks for a meal, a drink, or a new pair of pants is a welcome benefit of aging. But others see them as a necessity, especially as inflation continues to eat away at their purchasing power. This is a growing group — 42 percent of adults over 50 and older “are either retired or planning to work for financial reasons,” according to AARP Research.

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Kathy Lamb, 72, is looking for ways to save on her hobbies. The Chicago book and photo reviewer is looking for discounts on movie and theater tickets and museum memberships. Both the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Driehaus Museum offer a $20 discount for those 55 and older.

“I go to museums all the time and I love joining museums anyway, but the discounts encourage me to join more,” Lamb said.

In the past, such promotions for restaurants and retailers have proven effective in attracting retirees on their journey from “producing to consuming” their lives, said Mindy Weinstein, founder and chief executive officer of digital marketing company Market Mindshift. Typically, these consumers want to spend money and are more willing to visit places they value, she added.

“We all like exclusivity,” Weinstein said. “So when companies offer that, it’s like, ‘I’m part of this special group… I’m recognized and rewarded.’ And it builds loyalty.”

Yelp data backs it up: nearly 80 percent of reviews that mentioned “senior discount” were positive.

A handful of major retailers offer discounts for older shoppers. Kohl’s, Ross and Goodwill offer discounts of 10 to 15 percent on certain days of the week. Michael is offering a 10 percent discount daily, and Walgreens and Joann Fabric and Craft have 20 percent off certain senior days, which vary by location.

It’s also common for local grocers, restaurants, salons, and shops to offer promotions to older customers. United Markets, a family-owned grocery store in Marin County, California, is offering a 10 percent discount for people age 60 and older on the first Thursday of the month. Tuesday’s Joe Randazzo Fruit Market in Detroit is offering a 10 percent discount. Signature Style Lounge, a hair and nail salon in Hopatcong, NJ, is offering 15 percent off appointments Wednesday through Friday.

There’s also not as much stigma around those promotions anymore, Weinstein said. Older consumers feel more comfortable when they are online. They’re on Facebook, joining groups and posting about their trips, and on Yelp, where they see other people writing positive reviews about discounts, she added.

“For those seniors who can see that, ‘Oh, other people in my age group — they’re active, they travel, they go to restaurants, they go to the theater.’ It takes away a little bit of the stigma,” Weinstein said.

Some advantages – such as Such as credits for utility bills and discounted Internet and cable connections – are welcome respites for those trying to stretch their wallets. Like most Americans, older consumers are feeling the weight of unrelentingly high inflation. This was evident in the US Census Bureau’s February retail sales report, which showed a 0.4 percent month-on-month decline. And although inflation fell to 6 percent in February, the stakes are still high for unemployed seniors who are facing rising costs for long-term care in assisted-living facilities.

Many seniors have also seen their retirement funds shrink thanks to an unstable stock market. A report by Fidelity Investments found that by the end of 2022, retirees had lost 23 percent of their savings year-on-year.

Social Security benefits are also lagging inflation, although the government agency is increasing benefit checks by 8.7 percent starting this year. The boost isn’t enough to offset rising prices for essentials, causing many to draw on their savings and some to return to work, said Chip West, a retail and consumer behavior expert at marketing solutions firm Vericast.

“Combined with many older Americans who are starting to carry more debt into retirement — like mortgages, car loans, and even credit card debt — they want to save,” he added. “We see that rising inflation and these rising prices have created a new iteration of a very, very, very savvy consumer.”

Older shoppers are looking more for special offers, buying private label products and using coupons, West added.

During this inflationary era, the AARP saw growing membership. The benefits offered to members are a major draw, with discounts for most essential necessities. The advocacy group saw the biggest increase in usage of the gas discount, said Indira Venkat, vice president of research at AARP, as well as discounts for experiences like hotels and events. Members have also taken advantage of their cell phone plan promotions. And as drug prices continue to rise, members have shown increased interest in drug discounts.

Corie Wagner, senior editor for industry research at, has found similar trends in her research. Inflated prices coupled with the pressure to live off a steady income have made spending money strategically a necessity.

“A few dollars there could add up to $100 at the end of the month … and that could go a long way toward your rent, meds, and all your essentials,” Wagner said.

But she warned rebates won’t solve everything – “It’s kind of a band-aid for a bigger problem, but every little bit counts when trying to make ends meet.


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