The crowd was still buzzing about Patti Austin’s Friday night performance when I arrived at AARP’s Ideas@50+ conference at the San Diego Convention Center on Saturday morning . Of course, when I heard these comments I dug into my bag and handed the person or group (obviously jazz fans) a copy of the latest issue of Smooth Jazz News; one of many freebies attendees crammed into multiple bags of fun stuff and useful information. The lovely sounds of an orchestra and other live performances could pretty much be heard everywhere even though the NAMM and Museum of Making Music booth was located at the far right corner of the hall. This added to the excitement and energy of the day, which also included a chance to win a 2015 Toyota Camry!
These were the final hours of a three-day event filled with tips, lectures and demonstrations of health & wellness, money & work, technology & innovation and travel & lifestyle, as well as nightly musical entertainment. I didn’t want to miss any of it. So, I rented a scooter which gave me the speed to visit every vendor in the AARP exhibition hall before it ended at 4 p.m. I started at the beginning of the booths, which happened to be the health & wellness vendors, where I received a demonstration on a pain-relief and massage device that was heavenly and effective (although I can’t remember the name of it or the company that offered it as they were out of cards and literature during my visit to their booth).
I also picked up several coupons for discounts on everything from eye glasses at Sears to a $10 discount for Prepopik (a kinder, gentler colonoscopy prep process). And as I was on my way to see Arianna Huffington deliver the keynote speech on “Thriving After Fifty,” someone at a nearby booth handed me a cute yellow bag with a cheerful orange flower poking through the top (When I got home and went through my “haul,” I discovered it was samples of pads for “fearless protection for the unexpected leak,” hence the silver inscription “Tena” on the bag, which I didn’t notice at the time. I threw them in my purse just in case.)
Because the crowds at many of the speaker events overflowed or were standing-room-only, I arrived at the Money & Work stage 40 minutes early to make sure I’d have a good seat for Arianna Huffington. Several other people had the same idea, so I made new friends to chat with while waiting. Some of them were still floating in ecstasy from Patti’s show the night before, and described with glee the talent competition at AARP’s first “Boomer Superstar” (their over-50’s version of “American Idol”). Celebrity judges included Patti, Emilio Estefan and former “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks, and original “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson emceed the event.
The hour or so I had from Arianna’s fabulous and funny lecture until her book signing, gave me time to visit the travel & lifestyle booths. I was thrilled to see Donna Harris (director of marketing and film liaison) from the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. She and her staff were signing up people for a chance to win tickets to the Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival in October.
By the time I got through the sold-out book signing line, the expo was over, and it was a few hours until the concert featuring John Mellencamp with special guests Los Lobos and Mavis Staples. I passed on the concert so that I could go home, jump in the pool, go through my “goodie bag” of stuff I collected at the expo and recall all of the wonderful things I heard at the speaker events. Although the convention included lectures and panel events with the likes of Valerie Harper, Soledad O’Brien, Joan Lunden and Erin Brockovich that day (and Martha Stewart, Samantha Brown, Dan Marino, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jean Chatzky and Drs. Travis Stork and Jennifer Ashton from “The Doctors” on the prior days), Arianna Huffington was the highlight for me.
When I got home, I began remembering the first AARP Life@50+ event I attended in 2011 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I was there to cover the performances of Dave Koz and George Benson, as well as attend Chris Gardner’s keynote speech. Chris, the best-selling author of “The Pursuit of Happyness” and inspiration for the award-winning movie starring Will Smith, is AARP’s ambassador. That year’s event also included movie screenings hosted by actors starring in them (including Seth Rogan with his then new film “50/50”). That’s when I discovered how truly cool AARP was. Attending this year’s national event and expo confirmed how cool the life we have available to us after the age of 50 truly is!
AARP’s 2015 Life@50+ National Event is scheduled for May 14-16, in Miami, Florida. For details, visit www.aarp.org or call 800-650-6839.