AARP: American Association of…’Real Possibilities’ ???


*In the middle of this hectic work week, crammed with deadlines and “emergency” phone calls from my kids (one of them needed money and the other one needed…money), I was jolted when I went through the day’s mail and found a solicitation from the former American Association of Retired People (AARP). It’s actually the third solicitation I’ve received in as many months. Clearly, I’ve shown up on somebody’s list of people who are actually in a position to think about retirement.

Well, I won’t lie:  I think about it.  The way I think about hitting the Powerball, headlining a worldwide concert tour, or marrying Diana Ross (I pray she’s a cougar — but no, I’m not the father).

I did get a needed chuckle out of the AARP package I received.  “Dear Michael, Enjoy your birthday” the letter began. I have nine months before my next birthday, but I’ll try to remember AARP’s good wishes. Or maybe in their efforts to reach black folks, they are operating under the “CP time” system and they’re just getting around to extending good wishes to me for last July’s event.

The sight of the AARP temporary “membership card”, complete with my name printed on it, was more jolting than my first grey hair was a few years ago . And the packet teases the offer of a “free travel bag” as a “bonus gift” for a $16 annual membership. Presumably, retirement will present opportunities for travel that necessitate a new grip.

I will say that I was impressed with the organization’s new branding. According to the packet they sent me, the “RP” in “AARP” now stands for “Real Possibilities”, and in fact, AARP backed away from their original name a while ago.  Clearly, I’m not the only Generation X’er who balks at the idea of “retirement”. I know my 21-year-old, the one who needed money put into her checking account IMMEDIATELY OR SHE WOULD DIE the other day, would strongly discourage Dear Old Dad from retiring.   I also wonder whether I’m the only AARP prospective new member who shudders at the thought of being lumped in with the blue-haired folks who worry about falling and not being able to get back up.

Realizing that I may have some dated, jaded views of AARP and their members, I decided to check out their site for more info.

A very attractive, albeit much older, couple greeted me at their site via a pop-up ad, with the answer to a question I’d not yet asked: “How To Join AARP. It’s Easy!” At first glance, I’d be the only black member AARP has. Not a melanin-blessed person in sight.   In fact, I had to dig around a little bit to find any of us on their site, but after clicking on “Contact Us” in the top righthand corner, then clicking on “Black Community” in the lower right, I hit sepia pay dirt.

Image by © Jose Luis Pelaez/Corbis

In digging around a little, I learned that the organization’s CEO is a sister!  There’s a decent article from Divorce Court’s Judge Lynn Toler, and recent Emmy winner and How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis graces the most recent copy of their membership magazine.

Featured website sections that I could see myself referencing in the future — the VERY DISTANT FUTURE, thank you! — include “My Wealth”, “My Health”, and “My Life, Family and Community.”

And in case it matters to you, AARP’s also doing a decent job of reaching out to other groups via their site, including Latinos and the LGBT community. It matters to me.

All that said, I’m still going to pass on the AARP membership for now. And I’m sure my kids, with their open palms outstretched to me, will be thankful for that. Also, the AARP bonus travel bag ain’t THAT nice, and I’m several decades away from putting a Life Alert bracelet on my wrist and calling it a day.

This article was written by the eternally youthful freelance writer Michael P. Coleman. In lieu of Metamucil, Twitter is his drug of choice.

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