“I’m going to Vegas for a conference,” I recently told a young friend. “I get to hang out with my Cabot peeps, do a few interviews, stay at a fancy hotel…” Wow,” she said, her interest clearly piqued. “Lucky you. What kind of conference is it?” “It’s the AARP 50+ Expo,” I replied cautiously. AARP – The American Association of Retired People – a venerable organization that has been known to strike terror in the hearts of those about to turn 50. The arrival of an AARP card – and mark my words, they will find you – is proof positive that a corner has been turned. The bearer of such a card will never again be described as youthful, boyish, girlish, a prodigy or a wonderkind. In spite of the organization’s prodigious good work on behalf of people over 50, it can take a few years to get comfortable with membership. The card is, after all, proof positive that you are not now, now will you ever again be young. I watched as my friend’s expression changed from interest and envy to a kind of unresolved pity tinged with the very beginnings of horror. I could see visions of walkers and sensible shoes dancing in her head. “Well, uhm, have a great time,” she mumbled as she quickly remembered an appointment and left, undoubtedly grateful that those dreaded letters – AARP – resided somewhere on the far distant horizon of her life. Aging – The Adventure Begins Because my work is in social media, I often find myself the oldest person in the room, surrounded by men and women decades younger than I. For the most part, I can hang. I’m in pretty good shape – I work out. I run. I take care of myself and I’m blessed with good genes. In short, just about everyone, including me, forgets my age – until we can’t. Every once in a while, something comes up that highlights the obvious. My attendance at the AARP Expo is the most recent event that culled me from the youthful herd. Baby boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964 – are the pig passing through the python, a demographic juggernaut of aging idealists. Like Peter Pan, we thought we would never grow up, never grow old. And then we did. The first boomers are on the brink of retirement and the rest of us are seeing our golden years hurtling toward us like an oncoming train. Facing the reality of aging head on has given me a sense of urgency to live my life fully and with purpose, without wasting a day. And I know I’m not alone. Think about it, we are 78 million people, and many of us are trying to re-imagine the second half of our lives. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Boomers are just the group to do it. We are a generation of change agents, a cohort who began turning social convention upside down in the 60s and have been doing it ever since. For the most part we are not going gentle into that good night. We’re exercising and botoxing and filling and nipping and tucking. We do Yoga and Pilates and Zumba. We run and bike and hike and swim. We are taking names and kicking ass. We look and act very different than our parents did at 50+.
Bring It On
So, like many of my contemporaries, I say, “let the aging begin.” Let’s make it the kind of adventure worthy of the cultural explorers who brought you the sexual revolution and Woodstock, personal computers and on-line shopping, people like Barack Obama and Jeff Bezos, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna and Meryl Streep. I’ll be blogging and Tweeting from the floor of the AARP 50+ Expo for the next three days. I want to share the spirit of the event and allay the fears of my young friends. Like life, age is what you make of it. And we plan to make it a blast.
Fair warning, Las Vegas. We’re gonna rock your town.