AARP’s mission focuses on enhancing the quality of life as we age. While many associate AARP with our work in health care and Social Security, at AARP, we believe that enhancing quality of life encompasses so much more. Broadly, it is about enjoying the happiness and peace of mind that comes from living the life you want to live—and having opportunities to make others’ lives better as well.
Recognizing that everyone’s life has many facets, AARP has a commitment to enhance and connect with people age 50+ on many levels. This focus represents an evolution for AARP—one that includes resources and dedication to enabling people over 50 to live rich, full, and importantly, enjoyable lives.
What does this mean? Deeper dialogue with people about how they want to spend their time—specifically, their personal time. So, in the fall of 2010, AARP launched an extensive research project to better understand the values that are important to people over 50. We examined both current and aspirational priorities, and the most central insight resulting from this research was that family, happiness, and peace of mind are the prime values and motivators for the 50+ population. With longer life spans and the waning of “traditional” retirement, people are redefining life after 50. Recognizing this, AARP is evolving its approach to serving the needs of people over 50 by listening to their wants, needs, dreams, aspirations…and then acting upon them. In doing so, we’ve defined four key areas of focus:
1. Travel. Travel is the top aspirational need for people over 50, indicating an interest in new experiences and continuous learning. More than half take more than two trips annually, whether visiting family members or going on a vacation abroad. Around the world or around the corner, people over 50 associate travel with a variety of benefits, including discovering new things, spending time with family, and fulfilling personal wants and needs. AARP recognizes the passion associated with travel and is working to help people fulfill their travel needs by addressing the entire process of travel in new and exciting ways.
2. Giving Back and Volunteerism. The 50+ are actively engaged in the spirit of service that is sweeping the country. In the past 12 months, 27 percent of adults 50+ volunteered to help an organization or cause. For some, the definition of volunteering may be changing—helping out at a school function or church event, shopping for an infirm neighbor—but the spirit of helping others remains. The concepts of volunteerism and service are embedded in the fabric of AARP’s mission, and through AARP’s volunteer programs and service opportunities, such as Create the Good (which helps people find places to volunteer locally) and Experience Corps (an award-winning program that connects older Americans with elementary school children to tutor and mentor them), we are helping people to make valuable contributions to American society.
3. “What’s Next” for Me. The 50+ population never stops having goals and dreams. Recent research found that 75 percent of people over 50 are looking forward to what comes next in life, while 73 percent anticipate accomplishing more. While AARP will always help people 50 and older overcome challenges, we can also help them achieve their goals and pursue their dreams. Several initiatives are under development to help people achieve goals, leave their personal legacy, and discover their own “What’s next.”
4. Fun and Social Time
. Having fun with friends and family and making connections is very important for the 50+. The majority of Baby Boomers (84 percent) and Matures, born between 1927 and 1944, (69 percent) report that having enough leisure time is important to them. Dining, entertainment, and online experiences are particularly relevant for people over 50. Finding new ways to help them engage in these types of fun experiences is core to the team leading the strategy around personal time:
Social Media: With 85 percent of people over 50 engaging in social media (the number of Facebook users over the age of 55 grew 10fold in just three years), AARP has a social media strategy in place designed to engage people wherever, whenever, and on whatever device they choose.
Entertainment: Our annual Member Event, set in a different U.S. city every year, and our Movies for Grownups awards present engaging and relevant entertainment options for people over 50.
Games: Online games are also seeing significant growth. New research suggests that video game technology can be a valuable tool for helping people of all ages. According to the Games for Health journal, games can help to improve lifestyle and health habits and manage disease. Researchers have also discovered that “exergames” have significant advantages for older adults, not only by providing the benefits of physical activity, but also by serving as a source of social interaction, cognitive stimulus, and fun. Also, new technologies in multiplayer games help to connect families across the miles and across the generations.
As it turns out, having fun and being happy has added health benefits, as well. A study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being found that happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers. Similarly, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 2, pages 261–270) reveals that people with more positive views of their own aging live, on average, 7.6 years longer than people with more negative views. These studies are just some of many over the past several years that have begun to suggest that one’s personality, attitude toward aging, and other psychosocial variables might either lengthen or shorten one’s lifespan.
Personal time pursuits play a critical role in people’s quality of life, and at AARP, we’re excited to be tapping into this important facet in people’s lives…and we might be having a little fun along the way, too!
Carey Kyler is Vice President of Portfolio Strategy at AARP, where she oversees offerings related to personal time pursuits, including travel, entertainment, online, and volunteering. In her role, she works closely with teams across AARP to identify needs and trends amongst people over 50 in how they spend their personal and leisure time.