American Association of Retired Persons

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American Association of Retired Persons

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping older Americans achieve lives of independence, dignity, and purpose. The AARP, which was founded in 1958 by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, is the oldest and largest organization of older Americans, with a membership of more than 33 million. The National Retired Teachers Association (NTRA), which was founded in 1947, is a division of AARP. Membership in AARP is open to anyone age 50 or older, working or retired. More than one-third of the association's membership is in the workforce. The AARP's headquarters are in Washington, D.C. By the early 2000s, AARP had fulfilled its goal of having staffed offices in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. AARP utilizes an extensive network of local AARP chapters, its National Community Service Programs and NTRA members to involve members, volunteers, the media, community partners, and policy-makers in carrying out its objectives. The organization is led by a 21-member board of directors and has an administrative staff that carries out the group's day-to-day activities. The organization is funded almost entirely by annual membership dues.

The AARP has been an effective advocate regarding issues involving older persons, in part because of its large membership and its ability to mobilize its members to lobby for its positions before Congress and government agencies. The organization has concentrated much of its Lobbying effort on Social Security, Medicare, and long-term care issues. The AARP has fought zealously to protect the Social Security benefits of retired citizens and has resisted efforts by Congress to change the system itself. Its Advocacy Center for Social Security develops policy proposals and lobbies Congress.

The AARP Advocacy Center for Medicare seeks to ensure the availability of affordable, quality health care for older individuals and persons with disabilities. In the early 2000s it was working to develop ways of maintaining the short-term solvency of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and was preparing for the needs of the baby boomers in the longer term. With the dramatic growth in managed health care plans, the AARP has sought to educate its members about this new way of providing services and to empower older people by telling them what their rights are under this system.

The association also has been actively involved in voter education. A major, nonpartisan component of the association's legislative program is AARP/VOTE, a voter education program that is charged with informing the public about important public policy issues and the positions of candidates for public office. Through issue and candidate forums and voter guides, AARP/VOTE works to promote issue-centered campaigns and a more informed electorate.

The organization also provides many benefits to its members. The AARP licenses the use of its name for selected services of chosen providers. For example, it offers members a choice of insurance plans. Because most of the plans are neither age-rated nor medically under-written, the association can make Health Insurance available to many of its members who otherwise would be unable to obtain insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions. The association receives an administrative allowance or a royalty from the providers and the income realized from these services is used for the general purposes of the association and its members.

The AARP also operates a nationwide volunteer network that helps older citizens. Programs include information and support for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, legal hotlines, and Income Tax preparation. These and other programs are funded, in part, by federal grants.

The association produces two national radio network series and publishes a monthly magazine, AARP The Magazine, a monthly newspaper, the AARP Bulletin and a quarterly Spanish-language newspaper, Segunda Juventud. As older adults have gained computer skills, the organization's Web site has become increasingly popular.

Recent outreach programs launched by AARP include a collaborative national effort to help prepare people for independent living, long-term care and end-of-life care as well as a pilot program to promote physical activities for healthy aging.

Further readings

American Association of Retired Persons. Available online at <www.aarp.org> (accessed May 29, 2003).

Morris, Charles R. 1996. The AARP: America's Most Powerful Lobby and the Clash of Generations. New York: Times Books.

Van Atta, Dale. 1998. Trust Betrayed: Inside the AARP. 1998. Chicago: Regnery.

Cross-references

Age Discrimination; Senior Citizens; Senior Citizens "How to Avoid Being Defrauded" (Sidebar); Senior Citizens "Scamming the Elderly" (In Focus).

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