By Jacqueline Monahan
Photos by Jacqueline Monahan
AARP's "Vegas @ 50+
With a tagline of “Vegas @ 50+”, AARP’s annual gathering (American Association of Retired Persons) filled two levels of the Sands Expo Center on October 22-24, with exhibits, information sessions, a mini-film festival and an impressive list of celebrities, most of them 50+ as well.
As usual, your humble correspondent was on hand to traipse among the internal shuttle busses, the scooters, walkers, and oxygen tanks to bring you the scoop on the senior scene in Sin City. Actually it wasn’t like that at all. Well, some of it was, but the vast majority of attendees (25,000 strong, from all fifty states and three territories) looked like they could run a marathon, even if it was only to the next health screening (Walgreens) or wine tasting (Livingston Cellars).
The exhibit floor was sectioned into pavilions that featured information booths (365 of them) on Travel & Leisure, Retail, Technology, Health and Fitness, Government & Nonprofit and a Career Center. If you ever wanted to see a plastic model of what a knee replacement looks like, this was the place. Blood pressure checks, mini exercise sessions, nutrition information, and samples of everything from vitamins and supplements to eyeglass repair kits and jar-top “grippers” for easy opening. The retail section looked like it did a brisk business in jewelry and clothing. This is the population that’s got lots of disposable income, after all.
Exhibits were a constant during the three-day event taking place on the second level of the Expo Center, while information sessions and a mini film festival calling itself Movies for Grownups took place on the first. With topics covering love, death, ethics, illness, incapacity, eccentricity, and of course, aging, the well-attended offerings included Frost/Nixon, Mamma Mia!, The Messenger, Reach for Me, Certifiably Jonathan, The Wrecking Crew, Gotta Dance, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and Lovely, Still.
Information sessions focused on healthcare (Joint Pain Treatment, Medicare Today) financial management (Outsmarting Investment Fraud, Estate Planning) travel, (Italy, Ireland, Costa Rica) and lifestyle (Branding Yourself after 50, Midlife Dating).
Further proof that 50 (and beyond) is fabulous came from the many celebrity speakers who gave presentations as well as smaller, more intimate press conferences. Your humble correspondent was fortunate enough to sit in on several of these, close enough to make eye contact or shoot rubber bands for a direct hit. I never said I was ready for AARP membership, did I?
Actually, the honored television and film personalities were gracious and seemed to be genuinely pleased to be guests at the event. Olympia Dukakis and husband Louis Zorich, who has diabetes, were on hand to discuss the disease and promote its screening and treatment. Olympia, in black leather, sporting a sleek hair cut and slender countenance, looked like she quietly found the Fountain of Youth. The colorful Zorich spoke authoritatively on how he controls his blood sugar (exercise is key).
Norman Lear, 87, and Maya Angelou, seventy-something, spoke briefly about their current lives. Lear, in his trademark hat appeared just as he’s been seen for the past 40 years, his age only apparent in a slight tremble of his hand as he poured water into a glass. The majestic Angelou, all six feet of her, was seated in a wheelchair, but nonetheless bedecked in a sparkly, burnished gold dress and black pumps. She exhorted the women to read and emulate those they admire, putting thought into action and blazing a trail for others. Yes, she is as imposing and inspirational as you’ve heard.
Former Dancing with the Stars contestants Jane Seymour and Steve Guttenberg enthusiastically touted the show that thrust them back into the limelight. A luminous Seymour, 59, credits her dance training with alleviating a longtime back problem. Guttenberg, at fifty-something looking younger than when he starred in Police Academy, acknowledged that the intense physical activity of the DWTS experience recharged his life.
Al Roker is known for a jovial humor that you’ve come to expect from the well-known weatherman (he admits he’s not a meteorologist). The smaller-in-person-than-you’d-think television personality was animated but serious as he spoke about being an advocate for the American family. Roker stated that a family does not have to be traditional and can included blended, one-parent, a group of related or non-related people that come together in a unit of support. Roker’s kept his weight off (gastric bypass) but is not comfortable being a spokesperson for the procedure, stating that everyone must find what works for them.
AARP is an organization made up solidly of Boomers who’ve been through everything from war to sexual revolution to technological innovation. Do you think a little thing like age will stop them? They’ll be back next year in Orlando, following the sun and fun, reinventing themselves and society.
They say that youth is wasted on the young, but these guys recycle.
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