Is it just me, or have 76.4 million other Baby Boomers, noticed the dismal failure of AARP?
Once taunted as a Silver Tsunami, we Baby Boomers were to be a force to be reckoned with! And AARP was first to identify our numbers. I started to receive the mass mailing four years before my 50th birthday! I was so annoyed, as it was a stark reminder that I had reached the half century benchmark.
And then, I started to think of myself as being special, being included sometimes has that affect. And AARP mailings were upbeat and exciting. Being fifty had it’s perks and one of them was being one of 76.4 million Baby Boomers that were invited to join an elite membership!
Now eight years later, here I am feeling mostly left out. The strength in our numbers, as more than a consumer are disappointing and on a political scale, non-existing. It’s as though our potential which once sizzled, has fizzled and faded out.
AARP, the united front of teachers which evolved into a productive aging machine, was consciously aware of health insurance, but shied away from starting it’s own insurance. It was a community based organization that wouldn’t enter the political arena and didn’t count its membership, as a voting bloc.
And AARP’s membership swelled. But instead of becoming a supplier of information pertinent to its membership, a powerful knowledge dispensary like Google, AARP became a supplier/distributor of stale information targeted to old Americans. It’s branding was marketed to an organic audience, to which they teased, “You don’t know AARP”.
Famous Baby Boomers became AARP spokespeople with no qualifications, or passion other than they, like all the rest of us had just aged and gotten old. Apparently aging is an equal opportunist.
Whoopie Goldberg, the Baby Boomer comedian and Tom Hanks, the beloved actor who successfully portrayed real life Baby Boomer heroes, like Captain Sully who landed a commercial airplane on the Hudson River.
I was invited to participate in Boomer Technology in Boston, where I was allowed to interview AARP workers. At one convention I wrote about an AARP initiative, computer classes for older Americans across America being led by young people, these they cleverly called AARP-TEK.
Ironically, everyone seemed prophetically aware of the impact of technology on an aging population. But there was no urgency or sense of purposefulness, it was as if AARP could out-smart the smart technology by simply co-existing and entering the workplace.
We were the original pioneers of the World Wide Web; we lauded technology and intentionally installed cable into our homes, like some Orwellian Big Brother interior designer. We welcomed that first fertile layer of smart technology and watched it as it grew. It’s important to note, that back then we had a choice, both in policy and legislation and we understood the importance of Net Neutrality.
The doctrine “To serve and not be served” makes us complacent and passive aggressive. Our vast numbers scream democracy, but we whisper in our collective activism, with all the vulnerabilities of an aging population. We are faced with much more than just being prey to the usual scam artists. As government supplements are snatched away and replaced with crumbs.
New technology is being developed so fast, just as we are slowing down. Just as we are faced with our own moments of dementia, we’re being exposed to sophisticated hacks by cyber criminals.
It’s hard to look back and not see where we didn’t make a difference, but that’s the thing about growing old… One realizes too late, that youth is wasted on the young. We think of our job as being done, when in fact it’s just transforming. I remember analog technology’s metamorphosis into digital technology, but barely recognize old friends.
But there are success stories; many of my friends now walk around on titanium knees. We laugh and joke, as if they can run faster. That’s the result of an active imagination that watched a lot of television. It’s left a strong impression on us and we believe, if the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman could do it, then “Hell Yeah” we could do it too!
Thanks to technology, our expectations have grown. We’re living longer, with chronic illnesses that once killed humans. It’s a clear indication that we’re pioneers of aging in a digital era and that we’re not our grandparents at this age.
Recently I’ve been thinking how the greatest ideas sometimes remain dormant. That without fuel or a guidance system, those ideas aren’t engaging and don’t take hold. It’s then that we aren’t trying to improve life. Which seems such a waste of time, why else are we alive if we aren’t meant to make life better?
And so that’s what technology is for. It is meant to make us the great contenders and doers, starting small businesses with which to cater to “US”.
History shows us how life might’ve been, with hindsight we glimpse the benefits of knowledge coupled with imagination. How an invention can become much improved when creativity is allowed to flourish. It’s then that the invention is given that “Wallah!” moment.
China invented Gunpowder (sulfur, charcoal and potassium nitrate) and for 400 years used it as a propellant for firework displays. And then along came innovation, coupled with creativity that transformed how gunpowder was used, it became a powder keg that changed the world, or so we think…
I can’t be certain, but it seems that AARP missed an opportunity as well.
When an organization fails to gather and collect data in a cohesive way; when it doesn’t or won’t see further along than the tip of its nose; won’t or can’t make datasets or gather intelligence and other health information, or use financial graphs to determine best use practices, when an organization that starts out gathering so many people in a collective membership can think of little more than to sell its members on the benefits of Cellular One- Smartphones, with easy read displays and extra large numbers… the question we should ask is: “What if AARP did something great, really great?”
Our numbers are that great; as great as our expectations once were. We, Baby Boomers, the original pioneers of the internet are a treasure trove of Big Data.