AARP "Ideas@50+" San Diego Review

Baby Boomers,

I have finally caught up from our wonderful trip to San Diego last weekend to attend the AARP "Ideas@50+" convention.

First of all, I would like to thank AARP for throwing such a nice event.

I'm sure it cost them a pretty penny to put this show on and while I am not a huge advocate of their programs, I must say that everything at the event was extremely professional, very focused on the interests of our generation, relevant, dignified and well thought out logistically.

To steal their words in describing the event: "The beginning of an evolution to a more content-driven, interactive experience of exploring, thinking, and engaging with key influencers about the key ideas and issues that matter to the 50+ population."

Strangely enough, before writing this blog post, I scoured the Internet looking for articles reviewing the event to see how others felt about the experience and found only one on Martha Stewart's website.

AARP expected more than 14,000 Boomers and Senior Citizens to attend the three-day event, but from what we saw I don't think attendance came even close to that number.

While there was a good showing from all over the country (I spent a lot of time gawking at name tags) the majority of the attendees were definitely from Southern California.

The exhibit hall was far from full of vendors as well.

What does that tell you?

In my opinion, the recession isn't over yet, folks.

When I spoke to the hotels, restaurants and even the cab drivers, they all echoed the same sentiment that the event was not as successful as they thought it would be.

The biggest indication was the small turn out to the John Cougar Mellencamp concert Saturday night.

The hall held over 6,000, but was less than half full.

Nonetheless, it was a great concert and the Baby Boomers in attendance still rocked.

But, the folks that did find a way to make it to the weekend event were not disappointed.

And neither was I.

So what was the biggest takeaway for me from the event?

The people who attended and what I discovered from them.

Who am I talking about?

  • Baby Boomers who traveled across the country compelled to find answers to issues that were complicating their lives.
  • Single Senior Citizens that were interested in what others like them were doing with their lives.
  • Younger Baby Boomers, obviously hurt by the economic downturn, searching for ways to rebuild their retirement plans.
  • Older couples in scooters and pushing walkers exploring technology options to ease their physical burdens.
  • A diverse generation ready to invest themselves in making life better for others.

Bottom line: these were people willing to help other people.

Everyone was almost "shockingly" friendly, open to participation and willing to unashamedly share their experiences whether good or bad.

These were people eager to discover and embrace new technology.

They were looking for answers and alternatives to how they were currently handling their health, finances, social interaction and free time.

They were genuinely there to learn.

This was an engaged audience.

I got the feeling that, like me, they were there to explore life's real possibilities.

Strangely enough, even though the official moniker of the event is "Ideas@50+" I felt that Doc and I were the youngest people in attendance.

As part of the experience, I was honored to chosen for a focus group panel by AARP to analyze and review their upcoming website expansion called "Live Your Dreams."

Through their website travel framework, they are shooting for a platform that mixes the interaction of Facebook, Pinterest and Yelp to create a medium for posting your personal ambitions, passions and aspirations, in not only travel, but personal growth and experiences as well.

A "bucket list," if you will, that is fully interactive with other Baby Boomers.

A friendly place to let others know where you want to go, what you want to do, how you want to grow and what accomplishments you have achieved.

The dozen or so folks involved in this focus group literally surprised me with their level of engagement, thought-provoking ideas and ambition to help AARP develop a program that would truly support and benefit our generation.

The discussion was refreshingly open, honest and candid.

Honestly, I didn't expect that when I first got there.

Overall, I was extremely happy we attended the event.

It was no disadvantage that it was held in San Diego, either, but that is a blog for a different day.

There is no doubt I will definitely be involved in more local and national Baby Boomer events.

After last weekend, I now feel like I really am part of the "Boomer" generation.

Guess what?

I am damn proud of it too.