March 15, 2006 – V.I. residents age 60 and over are encouraged to hurry to their nearest Human Services Department office to get their very own senior citizen card.
"There are a tremendous amount of benefits," Clarence Scipio, director of activities at St. Ursula's Senior Citizen Center on St. John, said Wednesday.
Scipio said that many people are reluctant to get their card because they don't want people to know they've reached that milestone birthday.
A card costs $5 and is good for five years.
The biggest benefit comes at the Motor Vehicle Bureau, where seniors with a government-issued card get half off on driver's license and motor vehicle registration costs.
Scipio said that since the cost of a ferry ticket between St. John and St. Thomas increased substantially, more people have gotten their cards.
Seniors pay $1.25 each way on the Cruz Bay to Red Hook ferry, a huge savings over the $5 regular fare. A one-way ticket on the Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie ferry runs $5, substantially less than the $11.50 regular fare. There is no price break on the luggage charge.
Seniors with a valid card can also ride the VITRAN bus for 57 cents — almost half the $1 that folks under 60 pay.
Plaza Extra and Pueblo grocery stores give seniors with a card a 5 percent discount. At Western Auto stores, the discount runs 10 percent.
The University of the Virgin Islands offers free classes for seniors with a card. According to information provided by the university, participants can take classes if space is available. If they haven't taken the prerequisite classes, they may audit it instead. Students do not earn credits for audited classes.
Senior students must prove they've lived in the Virgin Islands for one year and register during the late registration period.
According to Scipio, seniors also get a break on their cooking gas, but the exact discount could not be verified with Paradise Gas, St. John's only propane provider.
According to a list provided by Scipio, movie theaters also provide discounts.
To apply for a senior citizen card on all three islands, bring proof of age. A driver's license suffices.
Get a card on St. John by providing two passport-sized photos. Scipio takes the application and the photos to Human Services on St. Thomas to finish the process.
Folks on St. Thomas and St. Croix don't need to provide photos because the Human Services staff will take their picture.
"It takes five minutes," Human Services spokesman Monife Stout said. Offices are at the Knud Hansen complex on St. Thomas and at Golden Rock on St. Croix.
Senior citizenship confers lots of benefits other than those available with the government-issued senior citizen card. No one could be reached at the AARP territorial office on St. Croix, but the AARP Web site outlines the myriad discounts available to seniors. Click on member discounts and services. Price breaks run the gamut from hotel and car discounts to those available on Earthlink and AOL Internet service providers.
The Senior Discounts Web site provides a list of online merchants that offer senior discounts. Click on "discount search." Most have an age limit of 50 or 55 rather than 60. The site also provides a place to plug in zip codes of spots on the mainland in case seniors plan a visit. This feature provides good information for people who like to stock up during visits to the mainland.
While restaurant discounts like those found on the mainland are few in the Virgin Islands, occasionally one appears. Maho Bay Camps gives seniors 60 and over a 20 percent discount off the cost of their entrée only at the resort's Pavilion Restaurant. Since iced tea and a salad are included in the cost of the entrée, only other drinks and the dessert will come at the full price tag.
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