Today I stumbled across an article by a woman who was writing about going through menopause. What stunned me was her view of the future. Is she getting closer, she wondered, to the age of “Medicare, retirement, and AARP?”
That’s the perfect trifecta of stereotypes. Each person’s experience will be completely different.
If you turn 65 in the United States today, you’re expected to enroll Medicare. You don’t really have a choice, although you can choose from different plans. That’s universal. Many of us would like to see the US put everyone on Medicare. Most people I know love Medicare, except for some who chose a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t work for them. That’s another story. So yeah, if you’re in the US, Medicare will be in your future.
Retirement is up to you. I’ve written a lot about retirement and the folly of identifying a universal “retirement age.” If I ran the world, we would retire the word “retirement.” We’d talk instead about reaching a point in your life where you have the financial freedom to do what you want. Read this book by Bella DePaulo if the idea feels new to you.
Today we know that some people just aren’t interested in marriage and they’re not suited to the whole mom-dad-and-kids scenario. We need to realize that some people aren’t interested in stopping work to travel or (horrors!) “leave a legacy.” I discuss this in great detail in my book.
I also cite research suggesting that people who keep working tend to live longer, happier lives. Not all of us want to become foster grandparents or greeters at a big box store. Some of us want to stay challenged, do meaningful work, and get paid at market rates.
Avoiding age discrimination isn’t easy. Ideally, you’ll choose a career where you won’t be forced out when you reach what they decide is “retirement age.”
Unfortunately, stereotypes support the notion that everyone wants to retire. It’s the way we used to talk about marriage. If you weren’t married, you were assumed to be weird. Today we realize that some people love being single and have zero interest in dating or relationships.
Finally, we need to stop associating AARP as an inevitable part of getting older.
For one thing, AARP now invites people well under fifty to become members. They want the discounts. AARP wants their money. I know a couple in their early forties who love the car rental details they get through AARP. They are happy to be card-carrying members.
For another, a lot of people get disillusioned with AARP. While AARP promises to fight anyone who scams seniors, they’ve been criticized for their membership marketing practices.
AARP also entered into deals with the giant insurance company, United Health Care (UHC), famously ridiculed on a video series for its practice of denying claims. AARP makes millions (billions?) from commissions. UHC pays AARP for permission to use the AARP brand. Some people think AARP will advocate for those who belong to the AARP insurance plans. In reality it’s a money deal.
Does AARP have a conflict of interest? Some people think so. After all, AARP gets commissons from UHC’s very profitable Medicare Advantage plan. Many experts think the Advantage plans don’t serve seniors as well as the traditional medicare option. Some claim Advantage plans cost the taxpayer far more than traditional Medicare.
“How can you possibly claim that you bring objective views on other Medicare policies when you have a major stake” financially in Medicare Advantage?” asked one policy analyst.
AARP benefits when seniors choose an Advantage Plan especially theirs. Will they be able to ask the hard questions, like, “Is Medicare Advantage a benefit for America’s Medicare-eligible population?
Bottom line: As I’ve said many times elsewhere, your experience of growing older will be unique. You may become an athlete, competing in senior games or playing two sets of tennis in the morning before heading to the gym for a killer workout. You may have a genetic condition that keeps you from moving freely. The goal is to fight stereotypes, not surrender to someone else’s idea of what you should be looking forward to.