Think of it as a Woodstock for the 50-and-older crowd.
When AARP’s Life@50+ Event & Expo comes to the Miami Beach Convention Center starting on Thursday, there will be three days of A-list appearances, community service projects, movies, music, competitions and expert speakers. The advocacy group expects to welcome about 15,000 to its annual conference, half of those attendees traveling here from within a 100-mile radius.
They’re coming to listen to such notables as economist and actor Ben Stein, Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, financial journalist Jean Chatzky, and physicist Michio Kaku. But they’re also coming to party with Jon Secada, Gloria, Emilio Estefan and more.
“It’s the first time we’ve been this far down south,” said Jason Weinstein, AARP’s director of national events. “We’ve been to Orlando but never to Miami, so we’re looking forward to it.”
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For the local AARP office, this is an opportunity to showcase a hometown described on the event’s Facebook page as “one of the world’s trendiest and flashiest hot spots.” A big draw — aside from the beach weather — is the area’s diverse entertainment possibilities. To acknowledge the offerings, AARP this year added an Arts & Culture track to its standard Money & Work, Health & Wellness, Travel & Lifestyle, and Technology & Innovation segments.
“Who doesn’t want to come to Miami?” gushed Jessyca Sosa, a spokeswoman for the local AARP chapter. “We have so many different attractions, so many different restaurants, so many different cultures. We’re a hot tourist destination.”
If Miami Beach’s conference mirrors AARP’s past ones, the average age of the attendees hovers around 63. About 60 percent will be women, many of them couples. Some are retired, but most aren’t — and they’re looking for ways to reimagine the third third of their lives.
Miami Beach can also count on the conference-goers opening their wallets wide. Organizers predict that visitors will pump $10 million into the local economy while they’re here. “I think you’ll see people spending the day at the conference and then having dinner on Ocean Drive and maybe hitting the nightclubs,” Sosa said.
In addition to the 150-plus exhibitors on the expo floor, highlights of the conference include:
▪ The fourth Health Innovation@50 LivePitch will feature 15 of the most compelling startups in the 50-and-over health technology market, including five from Florida. These finalists were winnowed from 228 companies who applied for the opportunity to present a “live pitch” onstage during the conference. The event gives startups access to both venture capitalists and thousands of potential consumers. Previous events in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Boston have helped 15 of the past 30 finalists raise $50 million in investments. The rapid-fire pitches are to be judged by four partners in investment companies Thursday afternoon.
▪ The AARP Superstar Contest is an American Idol-type competition to find the next 50+ music phenom. The final singing competition in front of a live audience and celebrity panel of judges — Chaka Khan, Kenny Loggins, Emilio Estefan and Tena Clark — is scheduled for Friday night. The five contestants, ranging in age from 50 to 85, represent California, Indiana, West Virginia, Washington and Puerto Rico. The grand prize: $5,000 and a trip to Pasadena for a professional recording session at DMI Music & Media Solutions headquarters. The seasoned singing sensations, however, won’t be the only attraction. Judges Chaka Khan and Kenny Loggins will also perform for the crowd. Tickets are $25 and open to the public.
▪ The AARP Foundation Community Celebration of Service kicks off three days of volunteering early Thursday morning. Volunteers will help rebuild the homes of three low-income homeowners in a Miami Gardens neighborhood; pack 50,000 meals to benefit the Feeding South Florida Food Bank; create greeting cards with personal message to be delivered to nursing and veterans facilities; help gather fresh produce donated by local farmers and package it for delivery to at-risk seniors in the Miami area; and create 450 emergency kits for seniors who do not have the resources or ability to gather the items needed during weather emergencies.
▪ Speakers will offer a wide variety of advice and information. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku will talk about the breakthroughs in neuroscience and how emerging technologies will change our daily lives. World Internet Project founder Jeffrey Cole will examine how TV and video are about to undergo a massive transformation, and James Brown and Reed Tuckson will provide practical ideas to help attendees age with vitality.
Other topics to be covered in panels include a conversation on food and health with Cooking Channel host Ingrid Hoffmann, tips for planning a multigenerational trip by Travel Channel host Samantha Brown, and interviews with entertainment legends Rita Moreno, Jon Secada and Emilio Estefan.
▪ Sweet Sounds in South Beach, the closing Saturday night concert, will feature Miami’s favorite daughter and seven-time Grammy Award winner Estefan, two-time Grammy Award winner Secada, and Grammy-, Emmy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning entertainment legend Rita Moreno. Tickets start at $35.
If you go
Admission to Life@50+ for AARP members is $35; $45 for nonmembers. The entry fee includes access to the exhibit hall, the opening show and the seminars/sessions for all three days. Non-member registration includes a one-year membership to AARP. Online registration is open now at aarp.org/events or by phone at 800-650-6839.
Additional information on Life@50+ Miami, as well as the complete schedule, can be found online at aarp.org/events.