Is it Time to Take a Closer Look at AARP?

by Chloe Jeffreys · 1 comment

in Women in Midlife

Last weekend I attended the Life At 50+ AARP convention in Las Vegas. I know there are some who think of AARP as über-liberal, but my notion was that it’s an organization for rich, white, old men who golf. So I went to find out what AARP is really all about.

Life at 50

Not Your Grandmother’s AARP?

Okay, I admit that’s not exactly fair. AARP is still for grandmas. Heck, I am a grandma! But the first surprise I got when I walked onto the convention concourse is how many middle-aged folks just like me were there. Lots and lots of ‘em. What did these folks know about AARP that I didn’t?

One thing they knew is that for a mere $25 you can enjoy two full days of entertainment with celebrities like Bob Newhart and Don Rickles, while attending informative sessions featuring experts on everything from sex, led by Dr. Pepper Schwartz, to finance, with Jean Chatzky

Does AARP Mean Old?

It seems AARP knows exactly the moment when you’re most obsessed about becoming OLD to send you that first invitation to join. Seeing that invite with the famous logo in the mail is like a big, fat notice from God:

Message From God

Who wants to be old? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Throwing the invitation in the trash suddenly makes us feel much younger, doesn’t it? Nobody is going to tell us we’re old. It even makes a great Facebook status update where you can get instant reassurance from your friends that there is no way you’re old enough to join AARP!

What Does AARP Stand For?

Contrary to popular belief, AARP isn’t The American Association for OLD People. And if you think the acronym stands for the American Association for Retired Person’s you’d be wrong on that count, too, because they dropped that years ago. AARP now stands for, well, nothing. It’s just AARP.


Because retirement is evolving. Instead of thinking about retirement in terms of an end-point, people today are thinking about how they will be creating a new future for themselves during the second half.

Founded in 1958 by retired teacher, Ethel Percy Andrus, retirement used to mean for the fortunate few a gold watch and a handsome pension package from a corporation or factory where you’d put in your 30-40 years.. No one has to tell you that this is no longer the reality of retirement. In fact, many of us might not retire at all.

So what is today’s AARP?

According their mission statement, “AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization…that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities…”

AARP – Real Possibilities.

In 1958, a person who retired at 65 could expect to live on average another seven years. A person turning 65 today can expect to live another 19 YEARS!

Many late boomers and GenXers wonder, if all of these baby boomers retire, and then live nearly three times longer than their parents, will there be anything left of Social Security for anyone else?

50-year olds today cannot afford to stick their heads in the sand, placing all their bets on hope.

AARP realizes that the time to plan for the future is now which is why they are reaching out to people earlier to help them start planning for a life that will be both significantly longer and contain a much higher degree of uncertainty than was true for their predecessors.

Money is Great, But Money Isn’t Everything

Certainly everyone knows that today’s retirement must include savvy financial planning, but AARP also recognizes that having sufficient money is not enough. Life must have purpose and meaning to be worth living. Finding purpose and meaning is the message behind AARP’s lifestyle reboot program: Life Reimagined.

Life Reimagined  is billed as a “real-world approach to change”.  In AARP’s own words, this hands-on tool “involves six practices that guide you through change. Think of it as a personalized guidance system. Start where you are in your life, and see where the possibilities lead you.”

life reimagined 1

The picture above is a sand sculpture made during the event by artist Kirk Radermaker. Radermaker left his job as a cabinet maker at age 60 to pursue a career as a professional sand sculptor. He now travels the world making sand art for a living! Kirk was one of several fascinating and inspiring people highlighted in the Life Reimagined program.

I attended one of the small, interactive Life Reimagined sessions led by Richard Leider, author of Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life, Leider led us through a brief Life Reimagined process.

If you are interested in what Life Reiminaged is all about you can check it out here.

Is a Life at 50+ Event for You?

Frankly I couldn’t believe the size and scope of the convention. With 11,000 people in attendance, and a football stadium-sized Expo Hall filled with vendors and AARP resources, no simple blog post could contain all of my thoughts. If you are looking for a reason you should attend a Life@50+ Event check out this top 10 list.

At the end of every day there’s a terrific drum circle. Check out this video made by Jen Lee Reeves (@JenLeeReeves). If you look closely to the right of the drum leader you might even see me banging the drum.

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