AARP or ARP… Which One Describes You?

The AARP (American Association of Retired People) is open to anyone 50-years-old or older. Most people begin getting membership offers long before they turn 50. I have a problem with the concept of retirement because it comes with a preconceived notion that I hope never accurately describes by life. Retire means (1) to leave one’s job and cease to work; (2) to withdraw from action;  or (3) to move backward. Retiring seems to be all about stopping. That’s why it’s a problem for me.

The average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years. That ranks 53rd in the world, according to this article. Other articles suggest the average life expectancy in America is decreasing mostly due to poor diet and lack of activity. In countries where people make better food choices, walk rather than drive, and stay active throughout their lives, the life expectancy is actually increasing. Since the average life expectancy today is 79 years, we can conclude most people will “fit” the AARP’s definition of retired people for almost 30 years. That’s a long time to cease work, withdraw from action, or move backward. It’s a long time to simply exist.

Let’s Drop One A from the AARP

I like the idea of being an ARP… Active Reinspired Person. Sure, people can leave their jobs, but that doesn’t mean they have to slide downhill into the cemetery. As we grow older, we have a renewed perspective on life and often the resources to fund the pursuit of dreams we left behind years ago. The years between 50 and the end of life can—and should—be the most amazing years of our lives. The best isn’t behind us; it’s in front of us and it might look nothing like anything we’ve ever done before. I know all about it because my life today looks nothing like my past.

Almost daily, I talk with people who long for the day when they can put an end to their daily rigors. In their minds, they envision a Hallmark Movie existence where they are in excellent physical shape so they take daily walks on tree-lined streets, stop in the local coffee shop where they are known by name, and open their doors to family members who are anxious to gather together. Yet, conversations with older people reveal a different story. Most older Americans take numerous medications to quieten the symptoms of the chronic illnesses. I recently watched a documentary in which a surgeon said medical professionals today are little more than “pill-pushers.” The most prescribed drug is Lipitor—a drug designed to lower cholesterol. Of course, high cholesterol is most often connected to a poor diet. So, rather than challenge people to change their eating habits, doctors prescribe drugs to reduce the symptoms. That’s just one example; there are plenty more.

Chris Farrell, author of Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life, said “I don’t think there will be a retirement crisis if we continue to work longer, but we’re going to want to do it with jobs that provide meaning rather than those that make people just miserable enough that they have to continue to work.” The first step to a thriving “unretirement,” he says, is to “begin by asking yourself what it is you want to be doing.”

A Huge Shift in Thinking

What do you want to be doing? That’s a different question than the usual, “What are you wanting to stop doing?” Farrell said people will want to do things that provide meaning. So, why wait until you’re 60 or 70 to make that change? Why not become an ARP — Active Reinspired Person. There’s no age limit on that designation. There’s no organization to join or dues to pay. It’s a new way of thinking that will carry us into a new way of living. Life isn’t a curse to be tolerated; it is an opportunity to be embraced.

You can be an ARP at any age. Being an ARP might not get you a discount on your next hotel stay, but it will enable you to keep traveling long after most people stop. You can join the AARP but still be an ARP. Let’s change our thinking and change our lives.

Listen to My New Podcast

I just recorded and released the first episode of my brand new podcast, “Reimagine Your Future.” This is the first of many tools and resources I’m developing to help people unlock their potential and change their lives in eight key areas: health, nutrition, work, relationships, money, ideas, faith, and the future. There’s much more coming, so stay tuned. Click the image below to check out the first episode and share it with others if you like what you hear.

reimagine AARP