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Essencefest Reflections, and More Events to Come

This is a guest blog from AARP's Edna Kane-Williams.

I recently had the pleasure of being at the Essence Festival - just one of several major events where AARP will have a presence this year.

Michael Baisden is 50!

If you've never been to " Essencefest," picture a Mardi Gras celebration combined with a huge girlfriend getawa full of laughter, sister to sister sharing, conversations, great food and lots of hugs . Add in your favorite celebrities and entertainment - plus a ton of information, knowledge and inspiration. So why was AARP there?

AARP wants to help people make the most of their life after 50, and hopefully even look forward to that magic birthday, like Michael Baisden celebrated with us at Essence Festival. We like to think of it as a time to explore your real possibilities.

Here are some highlights I took away.

  • From Sister 2 Sister founder Jamie Foster Brown: "It's never too late to become an entrepreneur." (And can you believe she's 67!?)
  • From Dr. Janet Taylor: "Not all stress is bad stress. The trick is how you cope."
  • From money expert and author Glinda Bridgforth: "Before you drop money you don't have, remind yourself that you can do without the new purse or the new designer shoes. You can't do without retirement savings."
  • From diet and fitness guru Dr. Ian Smith: "A blender is one of the best investments you can make for your health." Who knew?

So much inspiration in such a few days. Words like amazing, incredible, overwhelming, exhilarating, exciting just can't do the experience justice.

No big event would be complete without surprises. I had hoped for a good crowd, but I was surprised that we had people lining up to hear what AARP had to offer. See some of what we told them about online: tools and resources via, information especially for the black community on our web site, resources to help to achieve your financial goals, help if you're a caregiver, and much more.

We also were surprised by an impromptu happy birthday serenade by the incredible Johnny Gill for Michael as we celebrated the new definition of 50. Roland Martin even stopped by and jumped into a birthday photo.

What I'll remember most, though, didn't involve a celebrity. A woman named Karen from Atlanta told us, "I learned more about myself at the AARP booth than I have this entire weekend." She also was glowing after she got a hug from Dr. Ian Smith. Karen's reaction made my day - and my week!

It was a great opportunity for us to meet our members and members-to-be, and a way to welcome folks to our thriving and growing AARP black community. This also includes our social community; you can follow us on Twitter at @AARPBlackCom and like us on

Please bookmark our web site, and visit our booth if you're attending major events like #NAACP104, the Delta Centennial, and the National Urban League conference. We'd love to see you in Atlanta this October for AARP's National Member event. Some of the great speakers include Tyler Perry, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Gardner and more - and at just $25 for members and $35 for non-members, it's a true bargain.

We hope you'll help us spread the word about our resources and events to your family and friends. We look forward to connecting and to helping each other make the most of our real possibilities.

For Blog Edna head shot

Edna Kane-Williams, AARP's vice president of Multicultural Markets, is responsible for building deeper connections with and growing the association's African American/Black membership, from boomers to seniors - and the next generation as well.


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