‘AARP on Tap:’ A great way to beat the isolation blues

Encore Years
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ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOTV) – Something exciting was happening on the upstairs floor of Rockford Brewing Co. Tuesday evening. You could feel it as soon as you stepped inside.

Above the chatter of a bar room packed with 80 patrons, the Ransom Street Band blared big band sounds. Waiters and waitresses maneuvered carefully through the crowd, balancing trays of draft beers and burgers.

Snippets of conversation punctuated the clamor. Well-intentioned eavesdropping revealed topics of the day: Washington politics, guns in schools, potholes, and the upcoming Detroit Tigers season.

This could be a typical bustling happy hour at any Michigan brewery, except for one thing: Everyone in the place was at least 50 years old. Some topped 90.

Welcome to “AARP on Tap,” a series of take-on-the-day gatherings at Grand Rapids area brewpubs geared toward older adults. The get-togethers take place on the fourth Tuesday of each month at rotating locations. The calendar is booked through May of 2019.

The senior social events are the brainchild of John Ziemann, 76, an AARP volunteer from Grand Rapids.

“This is a way for people of a similar age to connect, share conversation about common interests,” Ziemann said. “The key purpose is to reduce isolation. The consequences of isolation can be deadly.”

Jennifer Feuerstein, AARP Michigan Associate State Director for Community Outreach in Grand Rapids, said she initially proposed morning coffee meetings.

“John told me, ‘no, that’s boring. Let’s take it up a notch,’” Feuerstein said.

AARP on Tap has been promoted via postcard mailings, TV and radio interviews, and word of mouth, she said. Future gatherings will combine happy hour with a petting zoo, a Music for the Mind event, and other activities.

“This is a connection opportunity for many people who no longer have social meetings like business lunches,” she said.

The Rockford event went over well with David Kapolka, 68, of Alto, who learned about the series at a Movies for Grownups screening.

“I was pleasantly surprised and very delighted that AARP would offer this kind of thing,” he said.

John Hoyt, 63, of Grand Rapids said he and his wife, Shannon, had a great time and met some new people. He said they have signed up for four of the brewery stops.

“We didn’t think we were the only people our age in Grand Rapids who liked to have a drink every now and then. And here they are,” he said, sweeping his arm toward the crowd.

Learn more about AARP on Tap on the AARP in Grand Rapids Facebook page.

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