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AARP Redefines Retirement with 'Disrupt Aging' Program

AARP’s Disrupt Aging program challenges people to find new directions in their lives once they reach retirement age. (Neyya/iStockphoto)
AARP’s Disrupt Aging program challenges people to find new directions in their lives once they reach retirement age. (Neyya/iStockphoto)
August 4, 2016

PHOENIX -- Americans are aging differently than they did a generation or two ago, and AARP is working to not just help people live longer, but also better.

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said she is on a mission to "Disrupt Aging," by helping people 50 and older overcome the stereotypes of aging and redefine what it means for life to get better as people grow older. Dana Kennedy, state director for AARP Arizona, said one of the main hurdles is changing the way society thinks about aging.

"We have a vision for aging. We don't want to be defined by our age any more than we want to be defined by our race or sex or income,” Kennedy said. "We want to celebrate the way people are aging and, as I like to say, if you're not aging, the alternative is not very good."

Jenkins outlined her vision for a new stage in life she called "The Age of Possibilities," in her best-selling book, "Disrupt Aging." As part of the program, AARP sponsored The Age of Disruption Tour across North America over the last two years and publishes newsletters and other materials to help people age creatively.

Leonard Kirschner, a past president of AARP Arizona, served a full career in the US Air Force and then became director of Arizona's Medicaid program. Since his retirement age is 65, he has continued to work as a consult and an AARP volunteer. Kirschner, who's now 80, said people often ask him for advice on how to spend their retirement.

"There are those that say, 'When I retire, I just want to sit back and do nothing.' And our advice to them is, 'That's a mistake.’” he said. "You want to go out and find something new to do - an interest, a hobby, a job - something brand new."

As people age, Kirschner said, they must break away from the expected and surprise themselves. Kennedy said AARP aims to disrupt aging the same way that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs disrupt industries - like Uber upended the taxicab business or Airbnb disrupting the hotel industry. She said people should live a full life right up to the end.

"It's about how we want to live and age,” Kennedy said. "We will celebrate those who own their age. We will hold up a mirror to the ageists beliefs around us, and we will feature new ways of living and aging and the products and solutions that make this all possible."

For more information on AARP's Disrupt Aging program, visit disruptaging.aarp.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ