Moses On The Mount


October 29, 2010

OTTAWA — Sandra Murray makes her way across a crowded reception hall to meet the man she credits with bringing some zip to growing old.

Murray is small in stature but big in personality. She looks 60 but admits to 73. And she’s got something to say to media mogul Moses Znaimer.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you and I looove your magazine,” she says of Znaimer’s glossy monthly manifesto for baby boomers, Zoomer.

Never one to miss a marketing moment, especially when it’s smiling in his face, Znaimer asks Murray to repeat her words of wisdom in case anybody missed them. As she does, one of those signature all-knowing grins sweeps across the 68-year-old’s face.

“These are my people,” he says surveying the flock mingling outside a Carleton University lecture theatre.

Murray is here, along with more than 100 Ottawa-area residents, to meet the messiah of middle age in the flesh. The former youth-culture maven who revolutionized television with Citytv and MuchMusic has flown in from Toronto to deliver his commandments of aging to one of the newest chapters of CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

Or, as Znaimer likes to call the former “old geezer” advocacy group that he hijacked two years ago, the Canadian Association of Refreshed, Recharged, Revitalized Persons.

More importantly, he’s spent this crisp fall afternoon taking his “new vision of aging” message to the mount in a wine-and-canapés meet-and-greet on Parliament Hill with a few dozen MPs and senators.

“We want to put some faces to the initials and tell them what the difference is between us and the other old pressure groups,” says Znaimer as he steps into the Parliament buildings for the first time since taking over as CARP president.

The “difference” is simple — and significant. While CARP is technically a non-profit advocacy group — among many that come to Parliament Hill to fight for bread-and-butter aging issues such as health-care reform, improved pensions and programs for seniors — it’s the biggest in Canada, with 350,000 members.

But what really sets it apart is the backing of its affiliated company, ZoomerMedia Ltd., the multimedia organization Znaimer has invested tens of millions in over the last four years with backing from Fairfax Holdings Ltd. That growing media stable includes VisionTV, the New Classical radio station, the New AM 740, and the flagship Zoomer, with paid circulation of 180,000 plus 30,000 newsstand copies.

Starting today here in Toronto there’s also The Zoomer Show, billed as Canada’s largest boomer trade show and lifestyle expo. The show follows this week’s CARP Conference on Aging and Longevity, a downscaled model of Znaimer’s idea City conferences.

“There are lots of advocacy groups and lots of charities (aiming to improve the lives of older Canadians), and there will be twice as many tomorrow,” says Znaimer during a break between the Parliament Hill and Carleton meetings, “but none with their own media.

“I can put my message out there every day and every year.”