I have a bone to pick with Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of the AARP, regarding an article in the Bulletin, the tabloid publication put out by the AARP, along with their AARP Magazine. The March 2016 issue of the “AARP Bulletin”, contains an “article”, in interview format, promoting her new book which is scheduled to come out in April.
The article started out in a positive vein but as I got into the piece, I discovered that she seems to equate those of us who are “aging” with all the other special interest and social groups who feel they need special recognition and treatment from the Government and others. She does suggest that we need to “take some personal responsibility for ourselves (my emphasis). Some? How about most, or all of the personal responsibility for ourselves.
She proposes a new “movement” proclaiming the self worth of seniors. She suggests that we are demeaning one another when we give “Over the Hill” cards to our friends at their 50th birthday parties. Personally, I enjoyed mine. What a crock of nonsense. I will turn 76 in just two weeks and I hope someone gives me a birthday card asking when I will be “… officially over the hill”. That certainly won’t insult me.
I’m also reminded that I started The Come Alive Project and this blog with the purpose of starting a movement for seniors to take full responsibility for our own health, fitness and personal energy, and that we are Our Own Fountain of Youth! But I came to realize that you, my audience, didn’t need a movement, that you were already pretty much in control of your own aging process, and that most of you had a generally positive “self image”.
I don’t know many seniors who are being treated with disrespect, individually or as a group just because they are aging. I imagine that there are individual seniors who sincerely believe they have been treated poorly because they are aging. But I certainly haven’t seen much of it. And if we are, it is because we have allowed ourselves, as individuals, to perceive it that way.
I do believe that we, as seniors, deserve dignity and respect, as much as anyone else. But I certainly don’t think we, as a group, need special treatment. That doesn’t speak very well for our own self-esteem.
There are people who will always take advantage of those who they perceive as weaker. Some equate aging with weakness. But we are not weaker unless we allow ourselves to be. I don’t necessarily mean physically weaker; weaker includes our attitude and demeanor.
If the CEO of the AARP truly believes that we seniors need special recognition by the Government, or by others, and that we should be treated like other special interest groups, then perhaps she doesn’t know her audience well, and should not be speaking for seniors in general. Of course there are pockets of seniors who fit into the category she describes in her article but most of us won’t allow ourselves to think about ourselves in that way. As seniors, we don’t need patronizing, nor do we need condescension.
If Ms. Jenkins wants the world to look at seniors as another “social” interest, then let her think that way. But most of us will continue to hold our own heads high, taking responsibility for our own self-esteem, and not needing others to think or act for us. We only demean our own image when we allow ourselves to demand special treatment from the rest of society.
Do seniors have special needs? Of course. But what we don’t need is another social activist declaring her way as “the best way” in order to promote a book or to justify a cause.
I have no quarrel with the AARP. They are a useful organization. I enjoy reading both the magazine and the Bulletin and I invite you to read the article in the March Bulletin. But I believe their market is younger at heart than their CEO thinks. Some of the points that Ms. Jenkins makes in the article are great. But most of us don’t need a “movement” to feel good about ourselves as we get older. We’ll take more than just some responsibility for the way we deal with our aging.
Thank you for reading.