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AARP REINVENTING ITSELF TO ATTRACT AGING BOOMERS

They were the generation of Woodstock, anti-war demonstrations and the warning "Don't trust anyone over 30." Now they're turning 50 - old enough to join the AARP.

While it still may be a drag getting old, the impact of aging baby boomers on the American Association of Retired Persons could be huge.Already the nation's largest advocacy group with 33 million members, it hopes to attract many of the 75 million people born in the United States between 1946 and 1964.

To do that, it's aiming programs specifically at the graying boomers.

At AARP's convention, which opened Tuesday to more than 20,000 people, "baby-boomer track" sessions focused on financial planning, stress management, maintaining good health and new computer technology.

For a group that is still the loudest lobbying voice for Medicare and Social Security, it's a time to reinvent itself for a crowd that grew up rebelling against the very people AARP represents.

"Their experiences have been totally different," said Wayne Haefer, AARP's membership director. "They are more likely than not to have gone to something like Woodstock, maybe used drugs, had a family that is divorced, or they're divorced themselves. They're going to have different expectations of the organization."

Haefer said he expects the boomers to be more aggressive about planning for the rocking chair.

"They're not going to wait for somebody to take care of their problem; they're going to take care of it themselves," he said.

For some elder boomers, like Thomas Durland, 50, of Aurora, Colo., the lure of AARP is its emphasis on planning for retirement at a time when Social Security doesn't seem as secure as it has in the past.

"It's going to be hard for the people at the tail end of the wave," said Durland, who hardly looked the part of a retiree with his sandy-colored hair, faded blue jeans and long-sleeve T-shirt.

AARP is not concentrating all its efforts on baby boomers. Haefer said it still has an obligation to the so-called "GI generation" - the people who served in World War II - and the "silent generation," which came of age in the '50s.

Linda Fulford, 49, had aging - her own and her parents' - on her mind when she attended the AARP convention with them.

"I don't think our country takes care of its old people at all," said Fulford, of Orlando, Fla.

But for many baby boomers, retirement is the last thing they think about, and the AARP still has that stodgy image.

"I'm 47 and I don't feel any different than when I was 30," Ed Green said during lunchtime at a Denver mall. "It's too early to think about being retired."

Marti Bombell, a 44-year-old Denver office manager, said she knows about AARP, "but somebody like me considers them as a group for old people, and I'm not old."

Added 42-year-old Terry Andrews, "All I know is they get discounts at hotels."