Being a member of AARP – it’s not what you think

Since I am old enough to be a card-carrying member of AARP I am also old enough to remember what the acronym stood for – American Association of Retired Persons. In 1999 AARP ‘officially’ changed its name to “AARP” – or Ay Ay R Pee to illustrate that its focus was not on retirees but people over 50.

Still I have an ingrown prejudice that AARP = OLD GUY. I don’t really feel old, and I am far from retirement (whatever that might look like). When I received the invitation to join AARP a couple of years ago I was not overjoyed. Despite that I joined anyway. Part of it was to see from a marketing perspective what I might be offered – after all it was free. So far the main ‘benefit’ I have seen is the monthly magazine, which for those of you who do not know remains the single largest circulation magazine in the world. In fact AARP claims more than 40 million ‘members’ but of course those members don’t pay anything to BE a member.

I have to admit the magazine (cleverly entitled ‘AARP – the magazine’) is something I rarely look at. Part of the reason is that it screams – HEY OLD GUY READ THIS! My own problem I realize but I am betting I share that little prejudice with many others. I truly wonder how many 50 year olds that receive the magazine actually open it. Last night I somehow stumbled upon the most recent issue and thumbed through it.

My takeaway was that the magazine isn’t bad at all and there were a couple of articles worth reading and the membership benefits section outlined something I had not seen before –show your AARP card at Dunkin’ Donuts and with a purchase of a large or extra-large coffee receive a free donut. When I drove past Dunkin’ Donuts this morning I thought about it but decided to pass. I like donuts as much as the next guy. However donuts don’t help me, or anyone, look like less of an old fat guy. But I know I will take advantage of it before too long provided I can actually FIND my AARP card.

AARP also produces radio and television programs (I’ve never heard or seen one). Specific products include Medicare supplemental insurance; member discounts on rental cars, cruises, vacation packages and lodging; special offers on technology and gifts; pharmacy services; legal services; and long-term care insurance.

There are other benefits as well although I fail to take advantage of them since that acknowledges what I prefer to not think about – somehow I am over fifty – and how the heck did that happen? And I really don’t care to be reminded by a magazine of that fact.

AARP has great assets that people like me try to ignore. And if you are not yet eligible you probably are not in a big rush to get there. That does not seem to be as good a business model as it could be.

I think AARP could use a total rebrand don’t you?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
This entry was posted in 50+ market, Advertising, Communication, Community, Customer Experiences, Living in the World Today, Retirement and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Being a member of AARP – it’s not what you think

  1. Margot Olshan says:

    Totally agree, Mark. I think they turn off an awful lot of people. And who retires that young anymore?


    • markkolier says:

      Thanks for the read and the comment Margot – and retirement itself is not a concept I am attuned to. Maybe working differently but to me retirement = path to end of life. BTW – love your new blog post and look forward to more.


  2. Totally agree. No one wants to wear that badge from our generation. A few years ago the magazine changed it’s name from Modern Maturity to AARP. Kind of a backwards or sideways step. While the name change may be beneficial, I don’t think this lobbying organization cares–especially since the magazine is free–will change anything. What strikes me as odd is that the baby boomer generation cannot be defined in one sweeping generalized description so the magazine tries to be all things to all people (over the age of 50).


  3. Tom says:

    Dear Old Guy,
    When my wife worked for Scudder, AARP was a big client and we received “free” membership while still in our tender 20’s. Although I don’t remember specifically using the card (for obvious reasons), I was impressed at how many places offered real discounts to AARP members, from rental cars to restaurants to Disneyland.
    Now that I actually qualify, maybe it is time to re-up again and start actually claiming that extra donut.


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