Tomes on aging, coming to terms with old age, recognizing the stages of aging, and so on are a dime a baker’s dozen. I’m here to tell you that whatever you’ve read, whatever fancy stuff you’ve been told, is in reality too complicated. The real answer is far simpler. The progression of aging boils down to “The Six Stages of AARP.” That’s right, A A R P. To be more specific, the six stages of AARP mail.

Stage One – Pre-mail

This stage occurs when you are younger, still living at home, and your parents receive an AARP brochure in the mail. You probably didn’t even notice it because you didn’t even notice the mail had come. Or if you were sent to the mailbox to retrieve the mail, you grabbed the pile and tossed it on the kitchen table without even fanning through it.

Stage Two – Me-mail

This stage is similar to stage one, except that you’re at an age where there just might be something for you in that pile. So you quickly flip through it, see something with the letters “AARP” on it, and keep going. Just in case, you ask your parents what it is. And they respond with “blah blah blah old people blah blah.”

Stage Three – No-mail

In this stage you’ve left home, struck out on your own, have your own address, and don’t ever receive an AARP brochure. Out of sight, out of mind, except for an occasional commercial on TV that you flip past just like in stage one. Years go by, you get married, have kids, and start to take on adult worries. Several years of adult worries go by blissfully without a stitch of AARP mail. Then the downfall begins.

Stage Four – Pre-open-mail

Hopefully life is moderately good to great, adult worries are manageable, and as you hit middle age, that constant of life rears its ugly head again – the AARP brochure. Since all the mail you retrieve is now your own, you carefully (compared to stages one and two) flip through the pile, plainly see the AARP brochure, think to yourself, Ha ha, that’s for old folks, then pitch it into the garbage. This continues for several years until…

Stage Five – Open-mail

This stage starts out innocently enough, with you flipping through the mail, discarding the junk mail, then leaving the rest…AARP brochure included…on the kitchen table. Occasionally you pass by the mail on the table, pick up the AARP piece, weigh it in your hand, quickly read the advertising on the envelope, and then open it, giggle a little at yourself for actually reading the first few sentences, then throw it away. A couple of TV commercials later, and you find yourself wondering if you’ll get another one of those AARP brochures. Oh you will. Just wait.

Stage Six – The Surrender

Finally! One of those AARP brochures comes in the mail. You put it in the important pile, eat dinner, settle into your comfy chair, put the reading glasses on, and then open’er up. Wow, this is actually interesting. “Honey, did you know that nine out of ten people our age….”  You’re hooked. You’ve reached the final stage where retirement is around the corner, the kids are mostly out of the house, and you face the prospect of living the senior’s price-discounted, coupon-laden life of a retired person. And you’re interested, you’re invested. This has been a long time in the making and you relish it!

I guess there’s one more stage in the cycle, but heck, let’s not name it, who cares, we’re retired. You signed up for AARP a few years ago, you’re enjoying the benefits, and now, as you walk to the end of the driveway to retrieve the mail, you think to yourself, “I wonder if there will be one of those catheter brochures in the mail? AARP must have discounts on catheters.”