By Jeff Keeling
Hey, AARP. Am I really mature enough to join your club?
The recent memory of racing over to deflect a pass intended for an 11-year-old at a pickup football game in the church yard tells me, ‘no.’ The lingering pain in my right thumb, the result of having stove (or is it stiven?) it on said deflection, tells me something different.
My AARP card came in the U.S. Mail Jan. 30, an early birthday present arriving four business days before the big five-oh. In a world of $100 monthly cell phone bills, the prospect of a $16 annual membership fee spoke to both past and future simultaneously. In the glitz of $6 fancy, puffy coffee drinks that barely taste like coffee and chatter about whether Amazon will soon deliver packages using drones, here was a package offering high value at a low price, delivered the old-fashioned way – by a government employee who, unlike me, may actually be able to retire when the age of 50 is still close in the rear view mirror.
So did I sit right down with the checkbook and write AARP a $16 check? Of course not. I did what any self-respecting 49.9863-year-old would do. I took a photo of the card with my phone, texted it to a few friends and to my tech-savvy mother along with some wiseacre comment, and promptly threw it into the recycling bin.
Some day I may be maneuvering my vintage automobile into one or two parking spaces, waiting for the Hardees assistant manager to unlock the door, and sitting at a familiar table with my cup of 25-cent senior discount black coffee, waiting on my fellow septuagenarian cronies to arrive so we can chew the fat. That day is not today, despite the fact that among other signs of impending geezerism, my back hurts, I’m ever more forgetful and I seldom sleep through the night anymore.
While I certainly hope to become an ARP (American retired person) someday, I’m uncertain whether I’ll ever join the AARP. I’m sure it does provide its members with many benefits, and I would imagine at a very reasonable cost. I’ve never been much of a “joiner,” but that’s not the primary reason I would suggest that the AARP does not, and never will, provide what our society truly needs in terms of its treatment of our more mature generations.
As the organization has grown in power and influence over the years, I imagine it has protected the interests of its constituency politically and socially. Yet as that has transpired and I have hurtled toward AARP eligibility myself, our culture has seemingly become more and more dismissive of its elderly – its middle aged, even – as it has worshipped the twin idols of youth and physical beauty.
In the dark old ages before there was an AARP, when people had shorter life expectancies and old ladies still split wood and separated chickens’ heads from their necks in the back yard, few if any of us felt entitled to a long retirement spent gallivanting around the world and fixing our various infirmities and inconveniences of advanced age with every manner of pill and distraction.
On the other hand, those who did live to a ripe old age could usually expect to be loved, aided and valued by younger family members and the community at large. They could expect their opinions to be sought, valued and respected much more than they are today. They could expect to spend lots of time with younger relatives, even if they didn’t get around so well.
I’m not sure but that I wouldn’t trade some of my 401k dollars for assurances that my twilight years would be spent in that kind of an environment.