Do you remember the scene in the 1979 movie, The Jerk, when Steve Martin sees his name in the phone book and shouts, “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!… I’m somebody now!”? That’s how I felt last week when I received my first AARP card. I proudly showed it off to several coworkers and friends, who kindly nodded and smiled, however were clearly baffled by my excitement about such as small thing. But to me, the AARP card symbolizes a new stage in life – almost a rite of passage.
Initially, our decision to cave to the almost relentless marketing efforts of AARP had more to do with the fact that our membership fee would be more than recouped from the discounts while we travel this summer. But as I thought about my emotions related to this decision, and to associating myself with millions of other older adults ages 50 and up, I realized it was more than a financial decision – it was an emotional one also.
Dreams – I am genuinely excited about this new phase of life. No, nothing big has changed in my life by turning 50. My husband and I are not empty-nesters yet. My career isn’t likely to change dramatically on my next birthday. We aren’t downsizing our home, nor taking a tour of Europe. Grandchildren are still likely years away. But I can see all those things in the not-too-distant future and they seem like good things – things we’ve worked for and wished for.
Possibilities – I’m also picturing new possibilities in this stage of life: classes I’d like to take, a musical instrument to learn, volunteer opportunities I’d like to try. In my early adulthood, I couldn’t see much beyond establishing my family and career. But now I’m seeing the possibilities of mid-life and beyond in a whole new light.
Impact on my pocketbook – With all these dreams and possibilities, I’m practical enough to realize that they won’t come free or even cheap. Downsizing our home could very well mean a move into an active adult community (I’m already tallying moving expenses, new furniture and décor). Trips abroad aren’t inexpensive. I’ve seen what my friends who are already grandparents are spending on toys, clothes and education. And my BFF’s new hot-pink electric guitar set her husband back a bit last Christmas. But in the end, it’s all worth it because these purchases perpetuate the dreams and possibilities.
Implications to senior living marketers
As those who market senior living communities, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the details of senior housing options. I’ve seen Websites and advertisements that talk about senior housing as if it’s a real estate transaction, or a health care decision, or focus on the resort-like amenities. But while those aspects may be important, it’s critical to reinforce how a senior retirement community can perpetuate a senior’s dreams and opportunities. How moving to our community can offer the chance to explore and enjoy a new stage in life, maybe even representing a new rite of passage. And how it reinforces what seniors have already figured out: “They are (and have always been) somebody!”
Who are some of the people in your community who continue to explore new dreams and possibilities? How does your organization help them do just that? We’d love to hear about them!
Lynn Adelmund, Vice President/Chief Insights Officer