AARP The Magazine

"Never trust anyone over 40" used to be my mantra. Now that I've hit the big 4-0, it's suddenly morphed into "Never trust anyone over 50." I'm sure I'll continue to bump up the decade until I croak.

Who is over 50? It's those self-righteous and ever-whining AARP members, with my mother-in-law at the front of the line. She's been on my husband's case to join the card-carrying lobbying group ever since he turned 50. Distrust aside, as my 401k balance continues to dwindle, those senior discounts that come with the card are starting to look pretty good.

I'll admit it: I'm a little jealous of those who are fortunate enough to be collecting Social Security while there's still some left. And as it turns out, they get a fairly interesting magazine to read as part of their $16 per year AARP membership fee.

After reading Larry Dobrow's scathing review of AARP The Magazine two years ago, I didn't have my hopes up.

But in all honesty I can tell you this is not a bad general-audience read. While I'm sure members aren't joining the AARP just for the publication, which proclaims itself to be the "world's largest circulation magazine," it's obvious the staff is trying to find things that appeal to an older crowd without alienating all those boomers who still imagine that they are young. (You won't find what the acronym AARP spells out anywhere in the magazine. The word "retired" is apparently banished.)

For starters, the publishers are smart enough not to try to appeal to the 50- to 70-year-old-plus crowd with one magazine. There are three versions -- one for ages 50-59, one for ages 60-69 and one for age 70+ -- and about 25% of the content is different in each.

I started by reading the ages 50-59 version cover-to-cover. It's pretty appealing, even to someone with 10 years to go before being the target. I then lined up the three magazines and flipped through them from cover to cover simultaneously. The copy differences are subtle. (For example, the four-page fashion makeover spread is cut to two pages in the 70+ version. The 70+ version also leaves out a story about Cat Stevens.) There's also some differences in story placement. But what truly fascinates me is the difference in ads.

Strikingly, the age 70+ version is 16 pages shorter than the other two -- 64 pages vs. 80 pages. Obviously, advertisers must feel their products are lost on those 70+, which is kind of sad. However, the Sinclair Institute's "Better Sex for Everyone" one-page ad is in all three editions, albeit with a different photo for each age group. (The  50-59 version couple look like they are in their 30s -- while the age 70+ version shows the male looking up at a younger-looking female with an expression that says "Yes, dear, I've taken my Viagra. Come to Papa.")

The cover story on Dustin Hoffman is well-written and interesting and could be in People or any entertainment pub. The "Tales of Hoffman" timeline of his films complete with pics is a nice touch. He's as handsome in the picture for "Last Chance Harvey" (2008) as he was in "The Graduate" (1967). We should all hope to age so gracefully.

A piece under the heading "newsmaker" focuses on "What This Country Needs," at least according to former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca. In lieu of an interview, the story is a series of strung-together quotes with bolded sub-headings. It reads a little like an Andy Rooney "60 Minutes" commentary, for better or for worse. But far be it for me to dis the man who saved Motown once upon a time.

The fashion spread that slims down in pages for the 70+ magazine version shows a series of fashion makeovers for those 50+. It's awesome to see people in their 60s and 70s being restyled, and the transformations are astounding. A nice touch is the where-to-buy listing at the end, which includes not only names of clothing manufacturers, but prices.

I truly enjoyed the first-person piece about how author Cassandra King met her husband, author Pat Conroy ("The Prince of Tides"). As it turns out, they are both foodies and the picture and recipe for Conroy's famous crab cakes looks divine.

Now I turn into Larry Dobrow's "Mini-Me" (I wish). Ready?

The fake Q&A from the AARP president is a waste of a page. Sorry "Dear Jennie," but this is boring and uninformative and the thing that makes me throw out (recycle) my AAA auto club magazine every month upon its arrival. I suppose advocacy groups feel like they have to make use of the "free" space, but honestly, who reads this stuff?

"The Eighth Annual Movies For Grownups" feature also doesn't thrill me. It's a bit long in the tooth, kind of like those speeches from people you've never heard of during the Academy Awards. I'm all for annual roundups, but the premise seems off. Aren't these so-called grownups more than likely retired and watching movies up the wazoo all year long? What do they need a recap for?


Frequency: Bimonthly

Published by: AARP


3 comments about "AARP The Magazine".
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  1. Bobbi Simmons from Arlington Roe & Co., March 19, 2009 at 1:34 p.m.

    In my opinion, the movie roundup premise is not off. I'm an AARP member, 61, work full time, and never have enough time to see the movies I want to see. Plus, I'm very reluctant to waste time and money on movies that disappoint. So I'm glad to have this feature.

    I enjoy your magazine reviews. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  2. Bill Newcott from AARP the Magazine, March 19, 2009 at 3:08 p.m.

    I was glad to see your mention of Movies for Grownups, even though it wasn't exactly glowing (Hey, long as they spell your name right!). The fact is, Movies for Grownups is one of our most popular annual features, and we also get lots of web traffic for our online reviews and the Movies for Grownups radio show ( When I created the awards eight years ago, the purpose was twofold: To draw readers' attention to the precious few movies truly aimed at a grownup audience, and to encourage Hollywood to make more of the same. We think we're succeeding admirably on both counts!

  3. Rich Borowy from Linear Cycle Productions, March 19, 2009 at 3:45 p.m.

    The so-called "Movies for Grownups" tend to be "Gimmie an Oscar" pix! (Titles released between September 1st throught December 31st, with a strong emphasis of films released after November 1st). These are the ones that cater to those north of 50! Besides, a lot of those folks that are in their 50's and 60's admire the films for everyone else! (If somebody saw "Star Wars" when it was first released at age 25, that person today is around 57(!!) So don't poo-poo those with the money, power, and fame!

    PS...Baby Boomers hate to be referred as "Baby Boomers!" It was cool to be labled that in the 1970's and 80's, but it's now old hat!

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