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Harrington: Senior Perks

02/02/12 5:55PM By Elaine Harrington
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(Host) Every new year offers a fresh start - but it also reminds us all that another birthday is coming. Commentator Elaine Harrington looks at the perks of aging in Vermont.

(Harrington) The population of Montpelier - and of Vermont - is rapidly aging. According to the U.S. Census, in 2010, about 15 percent of Vermonters were 65 and over. By 2030, that number will be 25 percent. Only Maine has a higher percentage of seniors. We are indeed growing older.

At my local co-op there's a special parking space with a sign that says, "Reserved for Customers over Age 65." One ice-climbing friend who just turned 65 insists that he will never park there.

But I know that others will make good use of the parking perk - and that's gotten me thinking about other privileges or deals that are out there for Vermont seniors.

The Vermont State Parks come out on top with the Green Mountain Passport. It allows Vermont residents unlimited day access to the parks and begins at age 62. Plus, it's on sale at your town clerk's office for an unbelievable $2.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has a big bonus for Vermonters at 65 - a combination fishing and hunting license for $36. And it's permanent.

I first heard about free passes for older skiers when I was a teenager - and most areas do offer discounts after age 65. But Smuggler's Notch really does have almost free skiing at 70 when a season's pass goes for just $20.

Mad River Glenn offers the Legend Pass for skiers 70 and over, if you can, and a season's pass for Nordic skiing at Trapps' in Stowe is seriously discounted at age 65.

If you like cultural attractions  discount for seniors include The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, and the Shelburne Farms building tour.

If you're thinking of going back to school when you retire, UVM offers Vermont residents free tuition in courses for credit or audit at age 65 - on a space available basis. The Vermont State College system, including CCV, offers two free classes per semester to senior residents, though course and comprehensive fees may apply both here and at UVM.

Surprisingly, the arts don't seem to make many allowances for seniors, but the movies offer some deals. The Majestic 10 Theater in Williston offers discounted tickets once you turn 60.

Travelling on the CCTA bus system offers half-price monthly passes to seniors for trips within Chittenden County. Some food suppliers, like Natural Provisions in Williston and City Market in Burlington, also offer modest senior discounts.

Of course, it's possible that as older Vermonters become more numerous, we could find that the perks are up-aged - just as many expect will happen to the Social Security threshold.

But at least for now, there are quite a few benefits that come with reaching a certain age in Vermont. And those of us who have them might as well enjoy them - while the rest of us contemplate birthdays in the years ahead - and reaching the senior status that unlocks these opportunities.

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