AARP's Colorado state director, Morie Smile, left, and an AARP volunteer from Colorado, Terri Potente, came to Washington this summer during the debt negotiations to talk to lawmakers about protecting Social Security. (Melina Mara/THE WASHINGTON POST)

When it comes to technology, baby boomers are far from slouches. In fact, they are so engaged in the latest gadgets that a senior VP of AARP made an appearance at the technology conference Demo 2011. In addition, AARP appeared alongside trendier sponsors such as Microsoft BizSpark and Alcatel-Lucent.

AARP’s senior vice president of thought leadership, Jody Holtzman, had his reasons for being there — all 78 million of them.

That’s because there are 78 million baby boomers in the United States who are on their way to retirement, nearly all of whom were on their way to their 65th birthday at the end of 2010. Those 78 million retirees (or potential retirees) make up a population with extraordinary purchasing power. It is also a population that is increasing its presence online, via social media, search and smartphones.

VentureBeat’s Regina Sinsky reports that, if the growing online presence and incredible buying power of the boomers are not enough to explain Holtzman’s presence at high-tech events such as Demo, his own explanation suffices:

“The positioning of the organization is about living, not aging. Regardless of age, everyone has a ‘what’s next?,’ and technology is essential to people’s ability to extend their lives in a quality way and have fun and pursue their dreams.”

AARP, in collaboration with Demo, launched the Innovation@50+ scholarship program, which provided assistance to two individuals to showcase their innovations at Demo. AARP will not release the names of the winners, which must either be a group or organization managed by someone 50 or older, or have a product that focuses on the wants or needs of those 50 and older. The scholarship covers the $18,500 participation fee to attend the event. “We’re trying to match the available talent with the abundant opportunity and help create great innovation,” Holtzman was quoted as saying in a news release before the conference.

This is far from the end of the road for AARP when it comes to conferences focused on the latest in innovation. In Austin, AARP staffers will make their presence known at the South by Southwest conference in 2012 (as they did this year) — proof that, when it comes to innovations in technology, America’s seniors are ready to play a big role.


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