Back in 2004, at the annual national conference of the American Society on Aging, I gave a somewhat edgy speech entitled, "If I Ran AARP for One Day: Here's What I'd Do to Redefine Aging, Fix Health Care, Balance Generational Equity, Eliminate Ageism in the Popular Culture, and Create a New Social Role and Purpose for Elders." The session was moderated by Joanne Handy, the past Chairman of ASA. (Click on the image above to hear a full audio recording.)
For decades, I have had deep respect for AARP and its high-minded leadership. However, as AARP had grown to become a nearly monopolistic intellectual, policy and marketing force pertaining to the aging of America, I felt a need to publicly point out where, based on my own study, research, experience and reflection, I felt they could do better -- much better -- with the focus of their programs and policy recommendations.
One of my key mentors was Gray Panthers Founder Maggie Kuhn, who was famous for saying that as we age, we must become the "watch dogs" of our society's leaders and organizations. Maggie also strongly felt that many of the institutions that were designed to improve the well-being of older adults needed the most watchdogging! She always challenged me to have the nerve to speak truth to power.
The recording of this session (audio only) from fifteen years ago was lost but recently re-discovered and people have asked that I make it publicly available. I hope that this session stimulates your own ideas and challenges you to take action to make the future of aging healthier, more financially secure and more purposeful. I'd love to hear any ideas you might have on this seismic subject.
Note: At the end of that talk, I offered to fly to Washington and brief the leadership of AARP -- for no fee -- about ways they could better contribute to the future health, well-being, financial security and purpose of our aging nation. After all, the friction between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made them both better athletes. To this day, my offer has never been responded to.
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