By Peter Zuyus
We are your parents, grand parents, great-grand parents, friends and neighbors. The state of Alaska has bestowed the senior designation upon us at the tender age of 60 and gradually increases our senior benefits until full realization at age 65.
We paid income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and all forms of fees for more than 40 years. We contributed to the Social Security system and Medicare system throughout our lives. When we began our contributions to Social Security, it was called “contributions to your retirement fund,” not the current term, “entitlement program.” Medicare taxes were a prepayment of retirement medical insurance.
We built the roads, schools, buildings and many of the places people now call home. We built those once secret sites like White Alice, RCS and BMEWS. When times were tough, we worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. We looked at adversity and said, “we can get through this.”
Alaska’s senior veterans fought the wars of the 20th century, protecting democracy and freedom around the world, while keeping our homeland safe.
Seniors were brought up to respect their elders and honor them for the sacrifices they made to keep our nation free. A gentleman would rise and seat a woman when she came to the table, and always offered his seat to a lady or elderly person on a crowded bus or train. (Probably illegal today.)
We recited the pledge of allegiance with our hands over our hearts each morning without fear of being ridiculed. Many recited a prayer to start the day. Yes … in public school.
We built the Alaska pipeline and worked the oil fields, built the Parks, Richardson, Glenn and Sterling highways connecting Alaskans to Alaskans. We rebuilt Anchorage after the quake of 1964 and Fairbanks after the flood of 1967.
We are the fishermen and women who built our great fishing industry and welcomed tourists with open arms to enjoy the beauty of Kenai, Cordova, Seward and towns around the state while building local businesses and communities.
We built the infrastructure of utilities and technology that so many now take for granted. Wireless, Internet, television and communications technology did not fall from the sky; it was not always here. The seniors of Alaska built it.
Senior women gave birth to the next generation of “seniors in waiting.”
We now live on our own, with assisted living, in retirement homes, in Pioneer homes or with our children. We are all successful in our own ways, and have always praised and respected those who worked hard and were fortunate in their finances. We lend a hand to those needing an assist, but we do not decry those who do not.
As did our parents, we turned over the mantle of leadership to the next generation assuming they would have the same view and respect of their elders that we do. This is not always the case in some political circles.
So, who are the seniors of Alaska? We are.
And who are the future seniors of the Alaska? You are.
Seniors are not an alien species thrust upon the world at the age of 65, as some would have you believe. Just like you, we were born, “seniors in waiting.”
Peter Zuyus is a Homer area resident and former telecommunications executive.
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