The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)Founded in 1958 by Dr.
Ethel Percy, the American Association of RetiredPersons (AARP) has been dedicated to addressing the needs and interests of olderAmericans. Percy felt that older Americans could attain a sense ofsatisfaction and fulfillment by remaining physically and intellectually activein society, thus came about his idea to form the AARP. The AARP is a nonprofit,nonpartisan, membership organization open to anyone, working or retired, overthe age of 50. Based in Wash-ington, D.C., the AARP pursues its goals throughservice, advocacy, and education. The AARP’s ultimate goal is to help olderAmericans achieve lives of independence, dignity, and purpose.
The AARP isspread nation wide through local chapters and is run mainly by volunteer boardmembers at the local and national levels.The 33 million members of the AARP can expect many benefits as well assupport from the AARP. The wide range of services span anywhere from movietickets to grants for re-search. The AARP also has many publications in theform of audio and publications. The most famous of these publications is thebimonthly Modern Maturity which targets all readers inter-ested in AARP issues.The issues and goals the AARP advocates span a great deal throughout thepolitical, economic, and social arena.
While diverse in its areas of interest,the AARP mainly concentrates on social issues. Being a nonpartisan organization,the AARP does not nationally endorse or contribute any money to the campaignsof any candidate running for national positions including presidency. Politicsin the AARP is basically left to the individual to decide whom he/she willsupport.
The only participation the AARP takes is through the AARP/VOTE program.The goals of the AARP/VOTE program are to educate AARP members and the generalpublic about important economic, health and consumer issues, and about thepositions taken by candidates for public office on these issues. They alsoinform candidates and elected officials of AARP’s positions on key policy issuesand help elected officials be more responsive to the needs of their districtsor states by promoting effective communication with their constituents.AARP/VOTE is successful because of its effective methods used to bring thecandidate and constituent closer together. They use techniques such ascandidate forums where the candidates visit local chapters, questionnaires thatcandidates fill out, and voter registration drives. Besides the AARP/Voteprogram, the AARP gets through political pressure from the grass roots level bya well structured system of events. This system of events can be summarized infour basic steps. The first being Obtaining Member Input.
This step involvesthe local level members providing input about legislative issues of concern inany area. The input is provided in form of thousands of letters of concernwhich is reviewed by the National Legislative Council of the AARP. If enoughsupport for an issue is found to be present among the majority of the membersthen it goes on to the next step which is the Decision Making of the NationalLegislative Council and Board of Directors. At this level, the National Counciland Board of directors decide which issues to support and include these newissues into the AARP’s federal and state policy agenda for the year. TheCouncil and Board interact with Congressional and government leaders. Leadersread over and respond to the AARP’s policy and debate over issues of concern.Once revisions are made to the policy agenda, a final draft is made and isdistributed in many forms to anyone interested.
The third step, Disseminatingand Implementing Legislative Policy, includes lobbying in Washington D.C. andtestifying regularly on Capitol Hill about the AARP’s federal and state policyfor that year. While action is being taken in Washington, the AARP is alsoeducating members on the new policy. The final step would be Ongoing PolicyAnalysis. At this level the AARP reviews and analyses federal response policiesto see if they are consistent with AARP policy. Recommendations are logged intoa working draft of the upcoming year’s policy book and the process ofinteracting with the federal government starts all over again.
The AARP is concerned with economic issues such as the financing ofSocial Security and Medicare, trust funds, the federal deficit, and COLAs orCost of Living Adjustments to health care services. The AARP believes onlymodest changes need to made to Social Security in order to keep it going intothe 21st century. The rising cost of health services is a threat to Medicareand the AARP feels the solution is to get the nation’s entire health caresystem under control. Another reason why the AARP is so optimistic about SocialSecurity is because of trust funds.
The trust funds are estimated to have$460 billion in assets in 1995. Even if nothing is done to strengthen SocialSecurity, there is enough money to pay benefits for 35 years. Modest changeswill be needed to extend the trust funds well beyond that time. With regards tothe federal deficit, the AARP is for the reduction of the deficit and is willingto pay their share as long as it doesn’t single out and overburden olderAmericans for an unfair share of the cost.
Probably the most extreme positionthe AARP takes is on the financing of health care reform. Their possible listof solutions include payroll taxes, increase in income taxes, VAT or value addedtaxes, and an excise tax on alcohol and tobacco. Finally, the AARP feels the CPIor Consumer Price Index number should consider the CPI-E or Consumer Price Indexfor the Elderly when calculating the rate of inflation with the CES or ConsumerExpenditure Survey. The premise underlying a CPI-E is that older people’spurchasing patterns differ significantly from the rest of the population,particularly those age 65 and older.
For example, older persons spend a largershare of their incomes on medical care, and medical care prices are far out-pacing general inflation. Therefore, a CPI-E could reflect a higher rate ofinflation; its use in COLA calculations would protect older persons from risingmedical costs.Finally, social issues that dominate the AARP include transit for theelderly, fighting age discrimination, pro generic drugs, general health careand home care reform, anti-mandatory retirement, and the elderly and drivingissues. To begin with, the AARP advocates that federal, state and localgovernments should consider the mobility needs of all citizens in comprehensivetransportation planning. Options such as vehicles accessible by physically-disabled citizens, transportation vouchers and other innovative transit servicesshould be considered. Also, private sector and community resources shouldsupport local government transportation efforts.
For example, some AARP chaptersand Retired Teachers Association (RTA) units already sponsor specialtransportation systems at the local level. Other civic organizations andbusinesses can do the same. Such initiatives are becoming increasingly importantin the delivery of local transportation services. Third, innovativetransportation alternatives ,such as transit service routes and safe pedestrianwalkways with proximity to housing and services, must be included in allcommunity development planning. The AARP is fighting age discrimination througheducation, legislation, and litigation. Through education, the AARP is makingworkers more aware of their rights under the law, helping eliminate negativestereotypes about older workers, and helping employers recognize the value andexperience of older workers. Through legislation, the AARP is urging Congressto remove any exceptions to the law making it illegal to discriminate inemployment on the basis of age.
Litigation comes in the form numerous “friend-of-the-court” briefs in significant cases involving the interpretation of theADEA. The AARP is pro generic drugs mainly because Medicare does not coveroutpatient prescription drugs, which are the second largest out-of-pockethealth expense for older persons, after long-term care. They don’t feelconsumers should pay more money for the same product.
On the issue of long termhealth care, the AARP feels there is a need for strong reform. For more thanthree decades, AARP has taken a leadership role on health and long-term careissues, and considers health care reform a national priority. AARP stands firmlyfor a system that provides high-quality, affordable health and long-term carefor all Americans. Currently America’s health care costs are skyrocketing out ofcontrol. More than 37 million Americans have no health insurance ,one-fourth ofthem are children, and another 20 million are underinsured. Two of the greatesthealth care needs for older Americans, long-term care and prescription drugs,can be a tremendous expense, and, unfortunately, many persons lack any insurancecoverage for these costs. With regards to the national health care debate,although many different plans have been proposed by the Democrats; to increasegovernment control and cut government spending on health care, and Republicans;to privatize health care and cut spending on health care, the one issue that theAARP is interested in, is one that will not jeopardize the quality of healthcare in the U.S.
Any such threat provokes action by the AARP. Another one ofthe major goals of the AARP’s nationwide health care campaign is the developmentof a range of long-term care services that will enable individuals to receivethe help they need in the least restrictive setting possible. This is known ashome care. Remaining at home helps many older persons maintain social ties andinvolvement with the community and family and helps preserve their sense ofindependence and security. It may also help reduce the strain that excessivehospital or nursing home bills can cause during a long-term illness ordisability.
The AARP also advocates against laws that mandate early retirement.They feel that individuals should be able to work as long as they are willingand able to work. Letting older persons work longer would also benefit SocialSecurity and private pensions by increasing the amount of contributions withmore people working and by delaying payments. Finally, the AARP stands firmlyagainst age-related driver testing.
They say it is discriminatory and isn’t thesolution to the elderly’s driving problems. The solution the AARP proposes iseducation. They would like to educate the elderly more about driving as well ashaving tougher tests when renewing driver’s licenses. Another suggestion is tohave more conspicuous and highly visible road signs. These ideas all together,says the AARP, would make roadways safer for all drivers. Thus, through thissmall sample of their large interest for social issues, one can get a betteridea how the AARP stands.
Being a member of the AARP has it’s many personal benefits as well ashaving the satisfaction that as an older person, one is still involved insociety at the political, economic, and social levels. The AARP has been aroundfor 38 years strong, being very effective and providing a solid voice for olderAmericans, and its success so far will assure its survival into the 21stcentury becoming one of the most well rounded organizations.