AARP Life Reimagined
Over a span of four years, we spearheaded the conception, design, and launch of a comprehensive platform aimed at assisting individuals aged 40-60 navigate life transitions successfully. This project was a collaborative endeavor involving multiple agencies, such as R/GA and SY Partners, and was characterized by a 'teach by doing' approach, instilling an innovation process throughout the course of the work. This initiative also marked the beginning of a decade-long partnership between Masson and the McClennan Group.
Traditionally, life was perceived as a semi-circle, peaking around 45 or 50, followed by a gradual decline. However, the emergence of a ‘new life phase’ has altered this trajectory. Fueled by advancements in health and longevity, our productive years have expanded, opening doors to reimagine life beyond the conventional norms. This phase is characterized by fluidity and dynamism, acknowledging the diversity in individual experiences, aspirations, and capacities.
The new life phase is filled with paradoxes – loss and gain, finishing and starting, retreating and risk-taking, fear and optimism, liberation and attachment; caring for self and caring for other; saving the world and savoring the world. An extended, expanded midlife can be both enticing and unnerving. And while the “old story” was one guided by a goal of freedom from – freedom from ailments, suffering, loneliness – the new story will be one guided by a freedom to – freedom to explore, freedom to choose, freedom to thrive.
In a collaborative endeavor with thought leaders like Christine B. Whelan, Ph.D., Christopher J. Metzler, Ph.D., Richard J. Leider, Emilio Pardo, Dr. Bill Thomas, and others, we devised a three-pronged approach to address the challenges of the ‘new life phase’.
We adopted a three-tiered strategy to tackle the complexities of the 'new life phase'. First, we recognized the necessity for an updated narrative that expands on existing lifespan theories, incorporating the realities and opportunities presented by increased longevity. Second, we identified a chance to devise a framework and tools to aid adults in this phase, tapping into the growing self-improvement culture. Lastly, acknowledging the democratization of technology, we aimed to provide more individuals with access to the 'good life', meeting their demand for personalized solutions that span both digital and physical experiences.
We recognized the criticality of data collection, ensuring it was consensual and transparent. Mindful of usability challenges, especially among older members, we ensured accessibility across technical and cognitive capacities. One of our initial endeavors was ‘Card Sorting’, a playful yet insightful digital tool that facilitated genuine user input. This culminated in a comprehensive ‘purpose statement’, a visualization of users' gifts, passions, values, impact, and goals, forming the backbone of the user experience.
We observed that games resonated with our users, prompting us to experiment further. We developed a ‘Vision Board’ as both an iPad and web app, enabling users to populate it with images from their camera and social media, envisioning their aspirations across personal goals, finances, work, and relationships. This seamless and engaging activity fostered trust, with 50% of users saving or printing their Vision Board.
The Science Behind Behavior Change
The instrumental support of BJ Fogg, an American social scientist and founder/director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab, and Nir Eyal, an expert in behavioral design, was invaluable in employing behavioral economics techniques to shape these programs, ensuring they resonated with the dynamic and diverse nature of the ‘new life phase’.
As data streamed in, we proactively built a comprehensive content taxonomy and a site-wide Content Management System. This paved the way for our collaboration with a variety of prominent figures, including celebrities like Oprah and Dr. Phil. Simultaneously, we engaged with thought leaders and specialized content partners, each possessing unique expertise in areas such as work, wellbeing, and relationships, and started transforming their intellectual property into digital experiences.
We put together a dedicated production team and, over four months, developed more than 60 programs. These programs, designed to engage users across over 100 content taxonomy tags, utilized behavioral economics techniques to maximize user engagement and completion. They were crafted to resonate with the dynamic and diverse nature of the 'new life phase'.
We organized the various tools and activities into an engagement funnel, establishing a method to measure conversion rates and the increasing level of user commitment towards their goals. Using unsupervised machine learning, we examined correlations between demographics, activities, program completion rates, and other data points to deepen user engagement.
Through continuous user research, we enriched offerings for engaged users and sketched a tiered subscription model. This included 1-on-1 calls with certified coaches, 24/7 text support, group e-workshops, exclusive local events, and more. We ensured a seamless plug-in-free video experience, which was groundbreaking at the time. To support facilitators, coaches, and guides, we created training materials, a searchable content database, and a recommendation system to efficiently support a growing number of members.
With a rich data constellation for each user and an understanding of the dynamic nature of their transitions, we created a user dashboard to track progress and provide support. Our vision of an 'experience of one' was realized through the Smart System we developed. This system adapted to users’ needs in real-time, ensuring that communication and support were synchronized with their progress both on the platform and through offline programs.
Life Reimagined offered a new generation of adults the resources to navigate life's transitions. We developed a range of complex technologies, including an e-commerce system, a coaching platform, CMSs, and life transition programs. Alongside this, we provided expert content, intellectual property, and introduced a new brand voice that reimagined aging. Upon project completion, these technologies and assets were fully absorbed into the AARP.org ecosystem, aiding AARP in adapting to the longevity economy and disrupting the traditional concept of aging.