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AARP Annual Expo

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

#485 AARP:  Stakeholders in Aging

Dear Readers:

This week I attended AARP’s annual expo Life@50+ held in Los Angeles.  The event drew about 20,000 people attending 70 different events in a venue encompassing the Convention Center, Nokia Theatre and the Staples Center.  Although the cast of speakers was terrific, what interested me most was the Exhibit Hall.

About 350 exhibitors showed their products and services to crowds milling around from booth to booth.  These exhibitors are the stakeholders in aging. And the 50+ is their target, a $2 to $3 billion market. We know that older adults have more discretionary income than their children and are willing spend it for the right items and services.

Here are a few exhibits that struck me as reflecting new aspects of the aging marketplace.

Music.  A large exhibit had a display of drums, guitars and keyboards.  About 15 people were sitting to one side of the exhibit, taking their first guitar lesson.  I was curious – why music?   .

According to Richard Schatz, Manager of Music Education and Institutional Sales for the Roland Corporation, some people dream of playing music as an item on their bucket list (time before kicking the bucket).  For others, their love of music goes back to the sixties, a time they want to revisit.

I joined the group with a big guitar on my lap and learned to play the C, G and G#7 chords as we all participated in a group sing.   I felt I was playing with a folk group, something that always appealed to me, but with only three chords.

I also saw smaller key boards and pianos that would fit into a reduced living space which clearly was directed to adults who have downsized. And the piano music was on a screen; notes could be made larger or smaller with the aging eye in mind.

Franchising and business coaching. In speaking with Jania Bailey, President and COO of Frannet, I was curious why they were exhibiting at the expo.  She noted that because of lengthy unemployment for older adults, there was a need for her service.  But there was more.  With so many college graduates out of work, parents are looking for ways to help.   They don’t want their children to make bad decisions so many have turned to Frannet for coaching and franchise information.

Addiction. Alcohol Anonymous had a booth for good reason.  One of the most under reported statistics is the number of older adults addicted to alcohol.  The booth attendant noted that the 50+ also have children and grandchildren with drinking problems.

Technology. Hamilton Captel® offers a captioned telephone service for those with a  hearing loss. A screen on the telephone base reflects the telephone conversation in exact words.  The company also provides apps for Android™, Blackberry® and iPhones.

Add to these few examples, AARP services and US Government agencies dealing with health, wellness, consumer fraud, cemeteries and pensions.  There’s more.  There were booths on tourism, personal safety, finances, fitness, real estate, diseases of later life, computers, caregiving, volunteerism, pharmaceuticals, writing family histories, credit counseling as well as publishing your own book.

The 50+ generation is a massive and powerful market.  The AARP exhibit hall was a testimony affirming that almost every business and service segment of our society is affected by our aging population.  From those of us who have been in the field for many years – welcome aboard.

Post script:  In 1990, I presented at the national AARP convention in Orlando, Florida.  Dick Cavett was the moderator of our panel that addressed retirement issues.  The panel met with Cavett prior to the presentations.  He carefully reviewed all introductions and sequence of speakers.

I was the first speaker facing a group of about 5,000 with my face and body blown up on huge screens to the right and left of the podium.  Here was my introduction.  Cavett looked at me, at the audience and said, “Do you know that Dennis backwards spells sinned?”  That was it.  I paused, smiled and said, “Thank you Dick” and proceeded to tell the AARP audience how delighted I was to spend some time with them.  So it goes with introductions and public speaking.

Copyright 2011 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.

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