Focusing on the Plus in “50+”

September 9, 2014

I keep hearing people say 50 is the new 40 or the new 30. While that’s a nice sentiment, as someone over 50, I’m not so sure I agree.

For one, we face distinct challenges and have different goals than people in their 30s and 40s. But even so, life after 50 isn’t what it used to be. I know because the 50 of my parents’ generation certainly isn’t an experience to which I can relate. According to our research at AARP, almost half of all employees ages 45-70 envision working into their 70s and beyond.  And as I transition into what is arguably the height of my career, I am inspired by what my own experience represents for the future of aging in this country.

So I like to think that 50 is actually the new 50. The 50 of today is made up of individuals actively seeking and living with purpose—in a number of different ways.

The 50 of today is not slowing down. It’s just getting started. It’s being able to connect with more people in meaningful ways thanks to new technologies. The 50 of today is both committed to family and energized by work. After 25 years of government service, I decided not to retire, but instead to jump feet first into a whole new journey in my work life. I would not be the CEO of AARP today if I had retired. We are caretakers—whether as children, parents or even grandparents. We are volunteers and philanthropists. We are leaders in our communities. We are a generation of makers and doers. We seek out opportunities and grab hold of them when we find them.

As the former president of AARP Foundation, AARP’s charitable affiliate, I also know the challenges that the 50+ of today face every day. I’m not blind to nor dismissive of the struggles so many in my generation face in meeting their most basic needs—caring for themselves and their families. I know firsthand the struggles of caring for both an aging parent and a sibling from a distance. It is not easy. Many need our help and support. We need to bring these issues to the forefront of our public policy conversation to make it simpler and more cost-effective to pay for our loved ones’ care.

I also know these individuals don’t want to be limited or defeated by these issues. The good news is that we can adapt. We’re used to it. We’ve grown accustomed to the world shifting right under our feet. We embrace challenges and persevere when faced with adversity. That’s the beauty of our generation—we fight for what we want and aren’t easily defeated. 

The future is sure to bring more challenges and more opportunities. And most people my age welcome both with open arms. We have no desire to be 30 or 40 again; we like where we are.  In fact, we’re looking forward to 60 and 70 and beyond. As the CEO of AARP, my mission is to help those 50+ confront those challenges and embrace those opportunities to the fullest extent possible. That’s a mission I’m proud to be a part of and honored to lead.




The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.