19 February, 2010

How AARP Lost Me

How AARP Lost Me – Even Before They Failed To Embrace Real Healthcare Reform

Since Shereen Remez’s LinkedIn profile says she is “Executive Vice President for Member Value” and that she “oversees all acquisition and retention of 40 million AARP members” perhaps she’ll be interested in knowing why I didn’t renew my AARP membership.

No, it wasn’t AARP’s failure to support my “the public option”. AARP lost me before that. They lost me at the local level. They lost me when I attended my first AARP meeting.

First, the AARP in the city where I lived at the time was meeting at a senior center. 50-somethings in their early years of AARP eligibility don’t see themselves as old enough to belong to AARP much less an AARP meeting in a senior center.

Second, I was by far the youngest person in the room. Most of the attendees were in their 70s and kept starting sentences with “you might know my son” or “did you go to school with my daughter?” They were friendly with me but they and I knew what AARP headquarters apparently doesn’t: that 50-somethings are a different demographic and a different psychographic and that we don’t belong in the same chapter with retired 70-somethings who see us as kids.

Third, the meeting was held in the middle of the day. I asked if maybe they could attract more AARP members of my age group if they held the meetings after office hours since AARP-eligible folks in their 50s are either working or looking for work during the daytime. These 70-somethings who meet at a senior center and tell me I remind them of their kids explained to me that they hold their meetings in the daytime because their members can’t see to drive at night.

In summary, everything about my first and only visit to a local AARP meeting told me that, at the local level, 50-somethings like me are out of place and that no thought whatsoever is being given to reaching out to my generation of AARP-eligible people.

I suggested to the state director that AARP should aggressively form new chapters that meet in the evening, that eschew and avoid the senior center and that are comprised exclusively of 50-somethings. The state director acknowledged that I was right but nothing has been done to implement my ideas or address the need to activate and reach out to AARP’s 50-something eligibles.

Now I’m back in my home state and I’m looking at a publication whose target audience is “seniors”. Of the 5 AARP chapters advertised, two meet at senior centers, another meets at a hospital (that’s another place 50-somethings don’t want to be), one meets at a “community center” which doubles as the – you guessed it – senior center and still another meets at a Baptist church.

All but one meets in the middle of the day when 50-somethings are either working or looking for work.

Doesn’t AARP headquarters or their state-level staff understand that 50-something AARP eligibles are not the same demographic as their retired, no-driving-after-sundown membership?

Don’t they understand that we are a different psychographic?

Shereen Remez, if you want me and my 50-something, AARP-eligible friends to get active in AARP, give us a chapter we can join that doesn’t meet in a senior center or a hospital or some other place that reminds us of mortality. Call us when there’s a chapter we can join that isn’t run by people who look at us as kids. Call us when there’s a local chapter that doesn’t meet when 50-somethings are working or looking for work.

In fact, call us when AARP brings back the job seeker workshops for people in their late 40s and early 50s.

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