As many of you are aware, AARP is a US-based organization that focuses on the needs and interests of the 50+ population, otherwise known as the Baby Boomers.
Logic would seem to indicate that since the incidence of disability increases with age, then AARP would at least broach the subject of accessible travel in a meaningful way.
Well, not exactly. In fact it appears that the organization is going out of its way to focus on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Let’s just brush away the large number of disabled Vietnam Veterans, people who had polio as a child and those folks who just get around a little slower. Those people (and anybody else with a physical disability) are all but ignored but what I call the “new AARP”.
What’s the new AARP? It’s the AARP that calls “50 the new 30” and the one that uses only healthy looking able-bodied models in their glossy magazine. A little gray hair is OK, but showing anybody in a wheelchair or a walker encountering a real-life situation is apparently a big no-no!
AARP totally ignores disabled seniors.
Case and point. Take a look at a recent AARP press release that touts the new AARP Passport travel website. Does the press release even acknowledge that some AARP members may actually need wheelchair assistance at the airport or require an accessible cabin on a cruise ship?
Instead the press release paints a rosy picture of healthy, active seniors who like adventure travel and activities such as motorcycling, white water rafting and salt water fishing. Now there is nothing wrong with those activities; in fact they can (with adaptations) also be enjoyed by people who happen to have a disability. But AARP totally ignores this growing population and their very real access needs.
What can you do? Well, if you’re an AARP member (or AARP-eligible), let them know they should represent the full spectrum of seniors; not just their able-bodied members.
And you might want to throw in that people who have disabilities also like to travel, and not everybody wants to do an adventure vacation (even if it is accessible). Some people just want to know about the ins-and-outs of air travel with a wheelchair, so they can go visit their grandkids. That’s real life. And we really need to address real life here.
Wake up and smell the coffee AARP!