People often become depressed as they age, and I think I'm beginning to see why.

People often become depressed as they age, and I think I'm beginning to see why.

Scientists no doubt are looking into this trend, and while I'm sure they'd be interested in my observations, I don't know any of them personally. If I did, I'd shoot them an e-mail. Dear Scientists, (I'd say if I was put in touch with the right people),

You want to know why people become depressed as they age? I'll tell you why. People become depressed as they age because they start receiving mail like the tri-fold postcard I found in my mailbox the other day.

"WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE" the postcard began.

You might think that sounds promising, but in my experience, truly pleasant announcements are never made in uppercase letters. Top-tier colleges don't start acceptance letters with "WH-O-O-O-O-O-A!!! YOU'VE BEEN ACCEPTED TO YALE, BRO!!!" The corporate world doesn't bellow out important job offers like hotdog sellers at the ball game: "YO! YOU'VE EMERGED AS OUR TOP CANDIDATE!" Probate lawyers don't announce small bequests in great big type: "LISTEN UP!!! YOUR COUSIN DIED AND LEFT YOU $50 AND 16 AMERICAN BULLDOGS!"

So anyhow. My postcard began, "WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE," and then it went on: "You may qualify for the Funeral Advantage Program."

The Funeral Advantage Program. Meaning, I guess, not just a plain old funeral, but a funeral with advantages. Doesn't that sound like a barrel of laughs.

Never mind what I might have hoped I qualified for. A crate of Florida oranges, maybe. Membership in a joke-of-the-month club. A chance to base jump off that bridge in West Virginia. The Funeral Advantage Program wouldn't have been on my list. Who opens the mail thinking, "I hope some funeral advantages are in here?" I don't even know what a funeral advantage is, beyond the obvious advantage of its being somebody else's funeral.

Well, I should say I didn't know what they were then. Now I know that one funeral advantage, at least, will pay my family an insurance cash benefit of as much as $20,000 tax free. Or, as this enthusiastic postcard puts it, TAX FREE.

Wowzer, right? Except for that one phrase: "in the event of your death."

Yes, no cash benefit for my family unless I die. This outfit might make the trade without a second thought, the way people trade two nickels for a dime, but I have a different perspective on the matter, and nothing expresses that perspective more succinctly than my own phrase, "unless I die."

Not "until I die," you notice. "Until I die" leaves no room for luck or miracles, and who among us doesn't leave room for those things, just in case? "Unless I die" suggests I may opt out of that directive. I haven't decided yet.

The postcard goes on: "THOUSANDS OF OHIO RESIDENTS have been accepted so far " Is this intended to instill a feeling of urgency in those of us who haven't signed up for funeral advantages yet? Are we supposed to think we need to hurry, lest all the spots be filled up like seats on a roller coaster? But wait! The coaster looked full, but a seat is available for me after all. I can climb right in and hold on tight.

What this is all about, I've managed to glean through narrowed eyes, are funeral expenses. Funerals cost a lot of money, see, but the families of those who qualify for this program, offered by a strangely anonymous group or organization, will receive as much as $20,000 to help out. (Not $20,000, please note. As much as. Big difference.)

And those who return the postcard today, the text adds, also receive a helpful booklet titled "My Final Wishes."

"Currently, you may qualify even if you have a health condition," the postcard says. That's really nice of it, isn't it to pay my family money even if my death is preceded by a health condition? Of course, it does say "currently," suggesting that this Nice Thing might be snatched away without warning. But no pressure!

Incidentally, when I say this offer is from "a strangely anonymous group or organization," I mean nowhere on the postcard is any hint of the sender. Why are these generous givers of 20,000 TAX FREE dollars so shy? Don't be bashful, sillies! We all want to meet our new bestest friends, the people whose postcard headline is "Funeral Advantage Program Assists Seniors."

And people wonder why we're depressed.