Review by KATHY MEGYERI
As the CEO of AARP, the world’s largest non-profit membership organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and over, Jo Ann Jenkins is uniquely qualified to change the conversation about getting older (Disrupt Aging) to one with a more positive tone.
Her focus is directed to three core areas – health, wealth and self – crucial elements in remaining active, happy and financially unburdened. Her book, which chronicles her own journey and that of other disrupters of aging, is basically a cheer leading manual for policy makers, gerontologists and seniors who want to see society’s elder members thrive.
But, she says, we’ve got a long way to go.
For starters, we have to reexamine the negative views we have on aging bodies, gray hair, and wrinkles. And when we have a memory lapse like people of all ages do, must we call it a “senior moment”?
Unfortunately, our healthcare system is failing many of the aged. Only 7,000 geriatricians are practicing in the U.S.; that’s one for every 2,000 Americans over 75. Seven out of ten people 65 and older will need some kind of long-term care lasting 90 days or longer. And one in four over 85 years of age will develop
The financial challenges faced by some segments of our aging population are enormous. Social Security is the primary source of income for about 50 percent of Americans 65 or older. Half of those over 55 have saved less than $50,000 and half of workers have no retirement savings plan from their employers.
In spite of this dismal picture, there’s hope because of our numbers and our marketplace power, Jenkins says. By 2060, nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. Today, if one makes it to 65, he or she can expect to live 19 more years.
And some 106 million of us generate $7.1 trillion in economic activity with grandparents spending $52 billion yearly on grandchildren. We pay for college, buy cars and fund vacations. Consumers over 50 own the majority of U.S. financial assets.
Science and innovation will create a new reality of aging, and technology will be the driver, helping us to live longer in the best way possible.
But disrupting aging means we have to re-examine our beliefs, and we can’t allow society, media or pop culture to convince us that our senior years are less desirable than our younger ones.
So toss out the hair dye, embrace your age, take pride in yourself and get ready to yell, “Senior Power!”