We live in a society in which no one knows how old they truly are, vis-a-vis their "assigned" categorical identity. Think about it: we split folks up into 'age classifications' from birth. Children are called babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. Once they get into school years, from kindergarten to about the 6th grade, they are then more commonly grouped generically as "children." In junior high, (or "middle school," as the current terminology seems to prefer), they become pre-teens and adlolescents. In high school, they are still adolescents. Upon graduation, depending on whether they enter the work force or go on to higher education, they become known as young adults or college kids.
Into the middle of all of these classes and categories is thrown a layer of commercial fuzzy thinking. You want to go see a movie with an "R" rating? Sorry, ' "Children" under 17 not admitted without a parent.' Ah, but you want to go have fun all day at an amusement park? All of a sudden, you're an adult, and pay adult price at age 12! Now you think you want to participate in the electoral process, and cast your vote, or write to your congressman? Oh, no! You're not an adult with those privileges until you reach the ripe old age of 18! What's that? You say you want a glass of wine with dinner on your 'official-adult-legally-able-to-enter-into-a-binding-contract' 18th birthday? Sorry, you're still not an adult until age 21! Want a smoke at 18? (No better for you than alcohol, by the way)...That's ok, though, go ahead and buy your cancer sticks to celebrate being able to vote your preference.
It happens at the other end of the age spectrum, as well. It used to be that we reached our "golden years" at retirement age, which formerly was age 65. The feds have now upped that 2 more years. Okay....but what about senior-citizen discounts? Well, it all depends on where you shop! One merchant may offer senior discounts a certain day of the week only, and you have to actually be 65. Another may have them every day, and you only need be 62. The AARP, the most famous of the 'senior citizen' organizations (at least the most politically powerful--and not necessarily in a way to actually benefit seniors!), lets you in at age 50! Some places offer senior discounts for showing your AARP card, regardless of age...others insist on that magical number with a "6" at the start.
Is it any wonder we are a confused, mixed up society, with idenity crises running rampant? We can't find our peer group, because the boundaries have gotten all scrambled about. I see two possible solutions. Either 1) legislate a standard for defining adulthood and seniorhood, and make it mandatory for all businesses to follow across the board (not my favorite option, as I think there is too much government interference already), or 2) stop trying to make all these pigeonholes into which to cram everyone. Let the legal definitions of adulthood stand, and let's see if we can get a consumer-driven effort out to have them honored, and not charge adult admission to 12-year-olds.
An interesting side-twist to all this: a person under age 21 cannot purchase alcoholic beverages, but they can be sent to the store to purchase a bottle of vanilla extract for mom (12% alcohol--about like wine), or cough syrup (many of which contain alcohol). Yet, they cannot buy non-alcoholic wines or beers, which contain less alcohol by far than the flavoring extract or the cough medicine.
For that matter, since when is chronological age an accurate determination of maturity? There are plenty of "adults" who still act like children, even though they may be 60+ years of age, and plenty of "children" who are wise beyond their years, and very mature and responsible by age 12. My grandfather, in fact, was fond of saying, "If a person has no common sense by the time they are 14, they never will."