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HKS Breakfast: AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins Discussed Innovative Ways to Disrupt Aging

At a May 19th breakfast hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School DC Alumni Council and AARP, AARP's first female CEO Jo Ann Jenkins shared her views on aging and the $7.1 trillion longevity economy, followed by a lively discussion with a multigenerational audience. Click here to listen to a special podcast about the event.

Ms. Jenkins shared how AARP is sparking new conversations and solutions to the challenges of age, so that more people can choose how they live and age. AARP's call to action is to build design solutions that aim to fulfill the needs of all generations, leading with the 50-plus consumer in mind. These are also topics of her new book, Disrupt Aging.

More than 50 Kennedy School alums, guests, and AARP employees who are also HKS alumni attended the breakfast in AARP's newest innovation space called the Hatchery. It was a great space for networking and inspiration. The discussion generated a flurry of tweets during the event, followed by book signing of Disrupt Aging. Ms. Jenkins shared anecdotes from her life experiences that have led her to champion a robust agenda at AARP.

HKS DC Alumni Council Vice President Jayme Johnson and Councilor Ruma Samdani made opening remarks. Jayme welcomed guests and introduced the Council, while Ruma (Director of Strategic Initiatives & Innovation at AARP) talked about AARP's innovation imperative, history, and origins. Councilor Nancy Bearg was the moderator, making introductory remarks about social policy, intergenerational relations and workforce, and other challenges and opportunities presented by the wave of 110 million 50-plus age Americans moving through society before introducing Ms. Jenkins. Council President Steve Powell also was present, while HKSers Malik Siraj Akbar, Ellen Stiefvater, Melissa Wilf, and Andy Yarrow also were generous with their time and efforts.

This HKS-AARP event was part of the HKS DC breakfast series, which has been led by Ellen Stiefvater and Nancy Bearg for several years. We are grateful to AARP for their collaboration.

Interesting Facts

  • People over 50 account for more than $7.1 trillion in U.S. annual economic activity. By 2032, that is expected to rise to more than $13.5 trillion.

  • The 111 million strong senior market makes up 50 percent of all consumer expenditures, yet is targeted with only 10 percent of marketing dollars, according to the AARP.

  • The aging pyramid is inverted for the first time, with younger people at the bottom in shrinking numbers.

  • The shifting demographics are transforming the 111 million senior market to an increasingly multicultural make-up, with Hispanics leading the way.

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