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AARP’s ‘Dynamic Maturity’ Shines at the World’s Fair

1964 pavilion in New York showcases philosophy on aging

Ariel shot of 1964 World's Fair

Bill Cotter

En español |The New York World’s Fair of 1964/65 opened in April 1964. Its theme was “Peace through Understanding.”

When the New York fair was being planned, Dr. Andrus asked, “What are the plans for the representation of the older folks?” It turned out no plans were being considered. “We were convinced,” she recalled, “that the [current] resurgence of faith in the potentialities of maturity was a great social revolution of much importance.... And so the decision was reached that the dynamic change of attitude toward age...must in this World’s Fair be featured accordingly.”

The Dynamic Maturity Pavilion opened on April 22, 1964. “Now,” explained Dr. Andrus, “people of all ages from all nations can see and learn of a dramatic new philosophy on aging: Dynamic Maturity! The Pavilion provides a unique showcase for the basic tenets of Dynamic Maturity — faith in the future; confidence in self; concern for others; and active participation in service.”

Outside shot of pavilion that reads

Bill Cotter

The Dynamic Maturity Pavilion showcased for the world AARP’s new philosophy on aging.

The Association of Retired Persons, International, AARP’s newly formed worldwide affiliate, sponsored the pavilion, along with AARP and its then-sister organizations, the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) and a charitable affiliate, the Retirement Research and Welfare Association.

Highlights of the Dynamic Maturity Pavilion included:

  • Master Keys to Retirement – Here, by pressing a button, visitors could find answers to key questions that could help turn their queries into real possibilities.
  • The Kurt Ard Gallery displayed 16 original human interest paintings by the famous Danish artist whose works had already appeared in Modern Maturity and NRTA Journal.
  • The NRTA-AARP Service Showcase promoted the many important ways in which NRTA and AARP were serving members and all older persons through activities, benefits and services. (At the Travel Service exhibit, those age 55 and over could register to win a free trip for two to Europe.)
  • Camera Obscura provided an exciting panorama of the fair outside. A camera and mirrors on top of the pavilion reflected the action all around the building and focused it on a large screen below. It created, for some, such a strong sensation of being up with the camera looking down that they had to install railings near the screen for the benefit of those who became dizzy.
  • The Hall of Fame celebrated the many great people who had received NRTA-AARP citations for their contributions to the enrichment of retirement living.

In addition to the public exhibits, the Dynamic Maturity Pavilion included a conference area where Dr. Andrus engaged leaders in business, industry and faith communities to discuss issues of importance to older persons. For example, on Oct. 7, 1964, AARP hosted a seminar entitled "What American Industry Is Doing to Prepare Their Employees for Retirement." Representatives from top U.S. corporations, including Western Electric, Coca-Cola, General Foods and Union Carbide, gathered to discuss questions still being debated today, such as “What is management’s responsibility in this regard?” and “What can we do to provide opportunities to valuable employees who wish to continue working past age 65?”

"For the first time at any World’s Fair, an exhibit at the New York World’s Fair focuses world attention on the contributions and achievements of mature persons.”

—Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, founder, AARP

By the time the Dynamic Maturity Pavilion closed in October 1965, 450,000 visitors from across the United States and around the world had toured it. The fair truly provided a grand entrance on the world stage for AARP and Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus.

Today, AARP and its affiliates remain committed to Dr. Andrus’ vision of dynamic maturity and successful aging. Just as AARP was at the New York World’s Fair in the mid-1960s to help people adapt and imagine a new life stage called “retirement,” our purpose is to empower people to choose how they live as they age.

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