PENNING: Getting AARP card makes me age quickly

I was routinely going through the daily mail one day recently when something stopped me cold. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
Feb 13, 2014


I had received my AARP card and an offer to officially register my membership.

AARP used to be the American Association of Retired Persons. That’s right — used to be. Apparently, people of a certain age are too weak and tired to breathe the full name, so the acronym is used. Sort of like a verbal cane, I guess.

AARP also sounds like the sound I made when it really hit me that I turn 50 later this month.

I wonder how AARP knows that I am so close to being a man of a certain age. I mean, I myself didn’t really know it. In my mind I feel like I’m 38. Of course, in my mind I still have a full head of hair and can run five-minute miles.

People have said that age is about your attitude or all in your head. So, I fully embraced that concept.

But this little invitation in the mail was a cold, slap of reality. It was less an invitation than a taunt: “Dude!” it said. “You are old!”

Years ago, I thought 50 was old. But the closer I got to that significant number, the less old it began to seem.

Having received the AARP mailing, though, I was forced to take stock. 50 years. Five decades. The big 5-0. My life passed before my eyes. I got out my reading glasses to see it better. Sure enough, I have been around that long already.

Thanks, AARP, for confirming my increasing infirmity. Now I can’t explain away the aches and pains, the tired feeling, and other aging symptoms as merely the result of being busy or working hard. No, I’ll just have to admit it: I’m getting old.

Now I will have to live cautiously. What other symptoms of age will I start to exhibit? I’ll fight as long as possible to hold them back. I certainly won’t be doing a comb-over — I don’t have the resources for that.

But, if you see me about town with my pants hiked up closer to my neck than my naval, please let me know. It is odd, come to think of it, that there’s a correlation between pants height and age. Young people wear them closer to the knee than the waist. I’m not sure why that is.

Meanwhile, if you see a car moving slowly and straight with a turn signal on, I hope it’s a tourist and not just me. I also will try to go to bed after 8 p.m. and not rise before 5 a.m.

I joke about all of the above. I do feel quite young and spry in spite of receiving the AARP letter.

It is a little puzzling that AARP, which is supposed to be for retired persons, is targeting someone as young as 50. I know very few people who can retire while still in their 50s.

That’s another reason the AARP invitation seems premature to me. I have at least 15 and probably 20 more years to work. This became obvious to me recently when meeting with a colleague who will retire next year. We were talking about some issues at work, and I felt myself getting a feeling of resolve and a look of tight-lipped determination. His face was an aura of bemused bliss.

But, even though I am nowhere near retirement, there are some “benefits,” according to the AARP material. I can get publications, health benefits, discounts at restaurants and hotels, and representation in Washington to fight age discrimination. Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that. Those things might be more useful when I am actually retired.

Interestingly, the same week I received this information I heard someone on a news program recently say that 70 is the new 50. Well, that’s good. Even old guys like me need something to look forward to.

— By Tim Penning, Tribune community columnist. A collection of Penning’s columns is available in the book “Thoughts on Thursdays,” available at The Bookman.


Former Grandhavenite

Getting older is tough in a lot of ways, but it sure beats the alternative!

I've always found it a little odd that age discrimination against older workers is perceived as a widespread problem, while age discrimination against younger workers is par for the course and nobody seems to mind much. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically bans discrimination based on age, but only for those aged 40 and above. It's pretty depressing to think that at some point while the bill was being written somebody decided to specifically exclude younger workers from having the same protections as everyone else with that clause. Somebody literally had a thought something along the lines of, "Hey if you want to discriminate against someone because they're young, knock yourself out, but it's terrible and illegal to do the exact same thing to an older worker". Sometime I'm going to dig into the legislative history of that law and check the Congressional record to see the rationale for that clause and how that debate went down, and if there was any opposition to excluding young workers from the protection. The young are one of the few groups of people who can still legally be discriminated against in employment.

Tri-cities realist

Great point. A law that specifically bans age discrimination then cites a specific age. Our laws and those who make them are so consistent! :-S

It is for this same reason that I do not agree with affirmative action: wasn't the intent of the civil rights legislation that we treat everyone the same regardless of race? But then we give preferential treatment to one race over another. I can see the short term need to do it back in the 60's, to over compensate for past injustices, but is it still necessary 50 years later? If not now, when will the playing field ever be level?

Former Grandhavenite

I'm proud of Michigan for passing that referendum in 2006 to ban race-based discrimination for state institutions, universities, contractors, etc. I went to a townhall meeting/debate on it that fall at GVSU, and it was a weird feeling to be cheering in support for a former high-level Reagan administration official advocating the pro- side of the issue. Of the hundred or so folks there I was literally the only person cheering on the pro- speakers and it went over with the rest of the audience about as well as if I'd stood up on a plane yelling "Allahu akbar!"

I also had the pleasure of being informed after the meeting that I'm racist for NOT wanting to discriminate against people based on race. It's yet another problem with our two-party system where if you support higher taxes on capital gains and protection of the environment, then you're also supposed to support affirmative action. People also assumed I was a huge fan of the Iraq war and Bush in general because there are only two possible packages of beliefs and if you agree with a party on one issue, you have to adhere to the party line on all issues.

Tri-cities realist

"I also had the pleasure of being informed after the meeting that I'm racist for NOT wanting to discriminate against people based on race."

What did they say when you pointed out the total hypocrisy of their statements? Did you get a deer in the headlights stare, and a "whatever, you racist" comment? Sometimes I wonder whether people actually stop to think about what they say or believe in, or if they just go along with the crowd because it sounds good or makes them feel more "enlightened".

Former Grandhavenite

I initially tried pointing that out, but when he kept going after a couple minutes I threw up my hands and said, "Ok you've got me figured out! You got me, but hey I gotta run, the klan meeting is starting soon. Vote Former Grandhavenite for Imperial Wizard!"

Once I decide somebody has no interest in even thinking about an issue in good faith, but instead just wants to restate talking points, my style is to just bust their chops a little and then be on my way. No point in wasting time and energy on somebody like that and making myself mad in the process.


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.