Old age isn’t what it used to be.
The AARP, formerly known as the American Association for Retired Persons and now simply known by its acronym, is retooling itself to accommodate a flood of new 50-somethings who are redefining the terms “elderly,” “middle-aged” and “older.”
A week ago, AARP wrapped its downtown D.C. headquarters in 3,500 pounds of vinyl mesh fabric to call attention to its efforts to reinvent itself.
“We have this avalanche of boomers coming down the pike,” AARP Associate Executive Director Bill Novelli said. “One of them turns 50 every seven seconds. The question was: How were we to be relevant to our new members and stay relevant to our old members?”
The AARP started asking these questions three years ago, shortly after the first members of the baby boom turned 50. One of its decisions was to retool Modern Maturity, AARP’s signature magazine with 22 million subscribers, into two versions: one for the 56-65 age group and another for those older than 65. AARP was finding the needs of its members varied widely between those in their 50s and those in their 70s.
“Retirement is being redefined in America,” Mr. Novelli says. “Our research is showing some people are retiring in the traditional way, some are working part time, some full time, some are going back to school either to teach or get degrees and some are starting up new companies.”
Thus a large percentage of AARP’s 34 million members are, in fact, not retired. This is especially true of the 3.1 million who fall within the 50-55 age cohort, for whom the AARP is launching a new magazine, My Generation, a take-off on a song by the same name composed by The Who.
Edited by 55-year-old Betsy Carter, a former Newsweek reporter and Harper’s Bazaar executive editor, the magazine will have a startup circulation of 3.1 million when it debuts in the spring.
“There’s no mass magazine like this on the market,” she says. “It’s a very powerful age group, economically, making social change and social statements, and it’s a politically powerful age group. Both guys running for president are in this age group.”
As is the current president of the United States.
“A lot of those people think they’re 15 years younger than they are,” Miss Carter says. “A lot of them say they’re not 50 like their father or mother was.”