Saturday, February 10, 2007

AARP's Ageism is Showing


AARP sells a lot of different kinds of insurance to its age 50-plus members and some critics argue that its lobbying efforts (it supported the Medicare – Part D prescription drug coverage legislation) have less to do with benefiting members than maintaining and increasing its product revenue.

It is not unreasonable to assume from that mission statement that it is in AARP's DNA to respect aging and elderhood, and that they hold themselves up as an advocate for elders, a bulwark against ageism.

It is the same old ageist language that appears all over the media every day perpetuating the same cultural insistence that age is bad and everyone must do everything within their power to look as young as possible unto the grave. But this time it is worse coming, as it does, from an organization that says it represents elders. Or maybe they represent only youthful-looking elders.

6 comments:

alan g said...

I am sure I have made mention of my feelings before with regard to AARP but I will touch on it again briefly because the mention of the "AARP" word will make my blood start heading toward the boiling point. In fact, you may now find the "AARP" word in my personal dictionary along with other disgusting four-letter words.

I am quite sure the organization began with all good intentions. I was fifty-five when I joined. I was not well read on the organization at the time but certainly liked what I had heard about them up until then. After reading their magazine for a couple of years and getting some sense of their agenda I grew more and more suspicious of their motives on certain issues. And I kept getting almost weekly these flyers and letters pushing all sorts of various insurance and health plans...half of which were AARP plans. Something was beginning to smell fishy in Denmark!

When the Medicare Part D issue began to take shape and they began strongly urging "seniors" to get on board and touting that it was a good plan. Well...that was it for me. And the ink wasn't dry on the new bill when they began pushing their own prescription drug plan.

With great fervor I wrote them a personal letter telling them to immediately cancel my membership and to cease all future mailings. I also recall mentioning the fact that there actual agenda was no longer subtle but quite blatant in nature as I recall.

So Ronni...with some exceptions such as this post of yours today which begs for me personally to say a few words, I normally will only stop momentarily to pass any excess gas at the site of anything about AARP and move on to the better part of my day.

As to the subject matter of your post, it is with firm conviction that I feel they are pushing products in reality have little concern with either our looks....or our well-being.

Joy said...

I have to agree with Alan and AQ. AARP is not on my "favorites" list. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from them when I was seeking insurance coverage after I was out of work and on my own after my husband passed away. I don't think they're necessarily working to benefit and help the elder population as they so eagerly want everyone to believe. I'm a fairly new member...really only since 2006; but I don't think I'll be renewing my membership.

And Ronni, when I saw the pic of Helen...I though the same thing....come on AARP...be real.

Naomi Dagen Bloom said...

sadly, aarp is the only place media look to when there's an aging issue. the org is so very big, has been wanting for so very long. but look at all of us: we seem to agree it's bogus!

Susanne said...

I am so glad to see this. I worked for a short time at AARP a few years ago. My advice is to run as far away from this fraud of an organization as possible. I can give you an earful of unbelievable things that I witnessed and heard while I was there. After I left AARP, I immediately cancelled my membership. They really do need to be exposed.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend in NYC who works in Publicity for the Broadway stars and he showed my a photo he took of Lauren Bacall (Was she the celebrity with high cheekbones mentioned in a previous blog?). It was, of course, untouched and she was as wrinkled as I am. I later saw an airbrushed photo of her taken recently and she looked 30 years younger.
Wow! The comments about AARP are revealing. I hope the editors at AARP read this Blog and wise up. I, too, cancelled my membership when they lobbied for Medicare Part D and just renewed it last year. I will reconsider my decision to renew again if they don't get real. Shame on AARP for promoting the Youth culture.

Lionel Fisher said...

I enjoyed and wholeheartedly agree with your refreshing, clear-eyed comments about AARP's sad sell-out of its traditional constituency in pursuit of the almighty buck in the form of a much larger, exceedingly younger membership. In appreciation, I'd like to offer an op-ed article I wrote four or five years ago. In fairness, I haven't seen a copy of AARP Magazine since I canceled my membership back when I wrote the piece, but after reading your remarks I see that not much has changed. I thank all of you for your outspoken integrity!

- - -

How about dividing AARP
Into the AYOA and AOOA?


“I see old people.”

It’s what a teenager might say, flipping through his parents’ AARP magazine. Interestingly, though, the three-letter word is conspicuously absent from the publication itself, as if systematically routed by an editor’s spell checker because it’s become the latest expletive, particularly to baby boomers: “Hey, boy, who you callin’ old?”

Which is why in the halcyon world of “AARP The Magazine” (nee “Modern Maturity”), people are young, become older and eventually die. But they don’t get old in the process.

The U.S. Census Bureau groups the nation’s 24.3 million “Near Old” (ages 55 to 64), 18.4 million “Young Old” (65 to 74), 12.4 million “Old Old” (75 to 84) and 4.2 million “Oldest Old” (85 and over) into a demographic slumgullion it labels America’s Older Population.
These numbers don’t include the cresting wave of nearly 83 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) that will lift the demographic tide of older Americans to high-water marks for decades to come.

Meanwhile, in the kinder, gentler embrace of these census categories, we won’t be old until we turn 65 -- only nearly old. From 65 to 74 we’ll still be partly young. At 75 we’ll be undeniably old, we but won’t join that terminal fraternity of the oldest old until we hit 85. Even then, the far parameter of this final classification remains mercifully open-ended, suggesting countless decades still to come.
By reducing its age-requirement to 50 at the turn of the century, AARP immediately welcomed the vanguard of boomers into its graying ranks. The Census Bureau puts the total of Americans age 50 to 54 years old at more than 17.6 million, so lowering the age bar was obviously a shrewd marketing move for the venerable association founded in 1958 as the American Association of Retired Persons. By making everyone but children, teenagers, Gen-Xers and the youngest baby boomers eligible to enroll, AARP has swollen its roster to some 35 million members. And that’s barely scraping the demographic barrel.

The flood of AARP direct-mail enrollment invitations, however, generated a groundswell of resentment among boomers, indignantly unappreciative of the unwelcome reminders of their galloping mortality: “Way to ruin my day, guys!”

But since “old” has become a fighting word to our Peter Pan generation, while “young” is an amusing misnomer to those of us who obviously aren’t anymore, what was AARP to do?

An obvious answer: lump everyone into one cozy group of “older” Americans with common concerns, similar needs and homogenous characteristics, no one old, everyone simply aging, “vigorously” or “sensibly” or “remarkably” and often in ways “belying age” or “defying nature.” What’s the harm, even if it’s just semantics, if it makes us feel good? Still, a question of practicality comes to mind. Doesn’t AARP’s tri-generational membership confuse its founding mission, blur its very reason for being?

What will happen as individual slices of dwindling entitlement pies shrink along with revenue sources? Will the various factions turn competitive, even adversarial, in their efforts to survive? If so, how can AARP vigorously and equitably champion all the divergent causes under its vast patronage?

Why not, instead, split AARP into two groups: the AYOA (Association of Young Older Americans ) and the AOOA (Association of Old and Oldest Americans)? Sign me up for the latter.

Now if only semantics could work as effectively on age as it does on denial.