'Zoomers' joining forces

Originally published in the Calgary Herald on July 22nd, 2010. To go to the Calgary Herald Website please click here

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When seeing the names of the people in a national group promoting a “new vision for aging,” anyone who grew up on ’80s music videos is bound to stop at the name of Moses Znaimer.

Currently the executive director of the non-profit CARP group — originally the Canadian Association of Retired Persons — he is the Canuck media mogul and pop culture pioneer who beat America’s MTV at its own game.

He launched Canada’s Much-Music video channel in the early 1980s, one of a string of accomplishments that includes founding Citytv in Toronto.

He and CARP are now trying to popularize a new term for to-day’s active older adults: “zoomers,” or baby boomers with zip.

Born in 1942, Znaimer is even using the name as part of his recent ZoomerMedia Ltd.

CARP started a quarter-century ago to give older Canadians a voice on issues affecting them, at the same time celebrating their diversity and success.

Due to changing perceptions of aging as older people strive for active lifestyles, the group decided to drop the original words behind its acronym and simply be known as CARP.

“The word ‘retired,’ I think, is a thing of the past for a lot of people, not only because they want to work, but in some cases because they have to work,” says Robert Robotham, 74, chair of the group’s Calgary chapter. “We’re more cognizant of our health, our fitness and all that type of thing that leads you to live an active life.”

The group has even expanded its target of potential members.

Once aimed primarily at retired persons age 50 and older, the group is now aimed at people as young as their 40s, further fading the dividing line between generations.

Robotham joined the group in 1996 after retiring from a career in the oil and gas industry.

After volunteering for nearly every position available at the non-profit group, he became the local chair last year.

“The whole CARP organization is based on ABC: Advocacy, Benefits and Community,” he says. “Our aim is to improve the life of seniors in the community and make sure they’re well looked after — and if there are any concerns, we can advocate in that area to possibly get some resolution or communication.”

The local chapters are the “eyes and ears” of CARP’s national body, says Susan Eng, vice-president of advocacy at the organization’s head office.

“We focus on several major areas,” she says.

“Finance — people don’t want to outlive their money and we’ve been at the forefront of pension reform. Second is health care — obviously, seniors have a different take on healthcare issues, their particular usage of it, and the impact of drug coverage and access to long-term care.”

Health-related issues addressed by CARP include wait-time guarantees and caregiver benefits.