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Is AARP® for You? (Part 2), Lucy LaFaive

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Did you know AARP ® has a foundation that helps provide economic opportunity, social connectedness, and legal advocacy for older citizens? AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social welfare organization focused on empowering older Americans to live their best lives. AARP addresses issues affecting older citizens including poverty, social isolation, loneliness, affordable accessible housing, physical and financial exploitation, and fraud. Its affiliated charity, the AARP Foundation, helps promote this mission through a number of valuable programs.

Economic Opportunity

There are two AARP Foundation programs available in the U.P. promoting economic opportunity—the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), and the Tax-Aide Program.

An AARP Foundation SCSEP office in Marquette is responsible for serving the entire U.P. and Michigan’s northern lower peninsula. The SCSEP is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that trains and helps low-income, unemployed seniors fifty-five and older get jobs. The SCSEP participants receive job training, support services, community service placement, wages, and assistance in finding future employment.

The AARP Foundation operates the SCSEP for the U.S. Department of Labor in twenty-one states, including Michigan and Puerto Rico.

This program benefits not only job seekers, but also non-profit community and government agencies that host individuals. Hosting organizations provide training to participants while getting free staffing because seniors are being paid through the SCSEP.

A few of the one-hundred-and-twenty hosting organizations in the U.P. and northern Lower Peninsula benefitting from this program are Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, YMCA, United Way, Aspirus, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Room at the Inn, Trillium House, U.P. Children’s Museum, the Women’s Center in Marquette, and the Caring House in Iron Mountain.

Courtney Hafer, Project Director of AARP Foundation SCSEP in Marquette, says she’s “always enrolling participants, and is here to help as many people as we can.” To apply for this program, your annual income must be less than the federal poverty level ($15,613 for 1 person, $21,138 for 2). Job seekers and non-profit organizations interested in hosting can contact the Marquette office (906-273-2460, chafer@aarp.org) for more information.

From February through April, the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide Program provides free tax counseling and preparation, including e-filing for low to moderate income people, with special consideration for those fifty or older.

This program is currently available in the U.P. in Marquette, Gwinn, Negaunee, Iron Mountain, Sault Ste. Marie, Houghton, Menominee, and Escanaba. Well-trained volunteers provide tax preparation at these locations by appointment.

Eight-year volunteer Rich Brich, the Marquette Local Coordinator and the Coordinator of Technology for the U.P., would like to provide the program to more areas of the U.P. Brich and other AARP volunteers are “constantly looking for new folks” to volunteer.

Fifteen-year volunteer Betty Trudell, U.P. District Coordinator, estimates the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program helped between 2,000 and 3,000 U.P. residents last year. She also emphasized the constant need for volunteers. She is currently looking for volunteers in Escanaba and Iron Mountain.

To volunteer or get help with your taxes, you can find a location near you by calling 1-888-227-7669, or Googling AARP Tax Aide to be linked to the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program site. You can also go to AARP.org and scroll down to the bottom of the page to the list under “Information for You” for the Tax Aide page link.

Social Connectedness

U.P. opportunities for increasing social connectedness include free social events such as those mentioned in my previous article, Is AARP for You? (Part 1)—AARP on Tap, A Taste of AARP, Movies for Grownups, and AARP classes. If you are interested in volunteering to help bring more of the AARP social programs mentioned above to the U.P., contact Sally Bruce, U.P. Michigan AARP Executive Council Member and eighteen-year volunteer, at sallybruce62@gmail.com, or (906) 786-3827.

AARP also increases social connection by providing community service opportunities. Some Foundation programs have a two-fold benefit—they benefit the individuals being helped and also the helpers. Volunteering is good for your physical, mental, and emotional health. It promotes a sense of satisfaction from helping others. Other benefits include lower stress levels, increased brain function, increased dopamine levels, lower risk of depression, a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and a longer life. Volunteering reduces isolation and loneliness, and increases social connectedness.

Many AARP Foundation programs are volunteer-run, so volunteers are essential to the programs. Another AARP Foundation program in the U.P. seeking volunteers to serve more areas is the AARP Driver Safety Program. More U.P. volunteers are sought to teach its Smart Driver course.

Currently, the U.P. has two long-term volunteers from Marquette and Newberry. Chris Earle, the AARP Driver Safety Zone Coordinator and Driver Safety Instructor responsible for the program in the northern Lower Peninsula and the U.P., travels up from Traverse City to teach classes in the U.P. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact him at (586) 707-5836 or dc123mi@charter.net.

Don Balmer of Marquette has been teaching the AARP Driver Safety “Smart Driver” course for over twenty years. The nationwide program is specifically designed for drivers fifty or older. The 8-hour classroom course discusses changes in roads, cars, and the law occurring since the over-50 crowd began driving. The refresher course includes research-based safety strategies, proper use of vehicle technology, and information on age-related changes such as medication and alcohol use, and health issues that affect driving ability. Winter driving is also discussed. Some insurance companies may offer discounts for participation in the driver safety course.

Classes are offered between May and October based on the instructor’s schedule. Earle will be scheduling classes this spring. You can find more information at aarp.org/findacourse or by calling 1-877-846-3299. If no classes are listed, check again as classes may be added.

Legal Advocacy

AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) is responsible for legal advocacy. AFL attorneys fight elder abuse, discrimination, and other barriers to employment. They also protect investors, employee health and pension benefits, and access to affordable accessible housing, among other things.

AFL was involved in a recent settlement with Senior Citizens Housing of Ann Arbor. The case was settled after Senior Citizens Housing of Ann Arbor removed the “able to live independently” requirement from its lease, and implemented practices to prevent disability discrimination and to make reasonable accommodations for its tenants.

For more information about AARP or the AARP Foundation, go to aarp.org.

Lucy Jeanette La Faive is a stress reduction, relaxation, and empowerment specialist living in Marquette. She loves to share her tools for joyful living in classes, workshops, and presentations. For more information, you can call (906) 225-1059.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. 

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