I’ve been a member of AARP for 19 years now. I’ll be honest-the reason my husband and I joined was for the discounts motels and other businesses offer AARP members. Over the years, I have come to really appreciate many of the other benefits of membership.
I have recently become interested in finding out more about AARP. I discovered it offers much more than I realized. AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) no longer just focuses on retired people. Membership is now open to anyone fifty or older. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social welfare organization whose focus is to empower older Americans to live their best life.
Besides the parent organization, AARP has an affiliated charity, AARP Foundation, and a for-profit, taxable subsidiary, AARP Services, Inc. Most of us have seen the ads for insurance and other products endorsed by AARP Services, Inc. Many people incorrectly assume AARP sells insurance and other products. AARP is paid by insurance companies and other businesses for using its name. AARP uses these funds to supplement its membership dues in order to be able to cover the services it offers AARP members. AARP provides members with information, advocacy, and community service opportunities. In this article, I’ll explain the information and legislative advocacy portions of AARP membership.
AARP provides educational information to members in its magazine, bulletin, classes, and online at http://www.aarp.org.
Topics include Social Security, Medicare, health and wellness, member stories, celebrities, fraud, finance, travel, books, movies, entertainment, driver safety, and more.
Personally, I have come to rely on AARP’s help in navigating the world of Medicare and Social Security. I learn a lot about both just from reading AARP’s magazine and bulletin. Its columnists have provided me with very useful information that I didn’t get from talking to Social Security office personnel.
AARP’s in-person classes and events rely on volunteers to organize, plan, and schedule them. Currently, the U.P. has two very dedicated volunteers from Escanaba-Sally and Jimmy Bruce. The Bruces, age seventy-five, have been volunteering with AARP for 18 and 12 years respectively. They are members of the Michigan AARP Executive Counsel, which helps set AARP’s priorities in Michigan. Sally and Jimmy Bruce have each received the Shining Star Award in recognition of their volunteer service to AARP in 2002 and 2005, respectively. Sally Bruce recently received an award from UPCAP, the U.P. Area Agency on Aging, and the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (MLTCOP) for her 33 years of service advocating for elders of the Upper Peninsula.
With the help of local volunteers, the Bruces have organized events in the U.P…
such as Movies for Grownups, fraud presentations, and a yearly AARP table at the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba on Senior Day. They have also organized free social events in Escanaba and Marquette for anyone fifty or older. In May 2017, the Bruces organized A Taste of AARP at the Bonifas Arts Center that included wine tasting, singing, line dancing, hors d’oeuvres, a chef’s demo, and presentations by Michigan AARP state director Paula D. Cunningham and AARP Associate State Director of Government Affairs Melissa Seisert.
Another A Taste of AARP event was held at the Holiday Inn in Marquette during November 2017. This past July, AARP On Tap was held at the Upper Hand Brewery in Escanaba, which included beer, hors d’oeuvres, and AARP presentations. The Bruces are currently looking for another U.P. brewery willing to host AARP On Tap in the future.
The Bruces have also helped the AARP Michigan Office with events such as hosting the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency to present information about veterans’ benefits in the U.P. Another U.P. Veterans event is being planned for 2020.
Many educational, entertainment, and outreach programs are available similar to the ones the Bruces have organized, and more. To look up activities available in Michigan, go to states.aarp.org, then select Michigan and search for your area. However, to help make such events happen, volunteers are necessary. If you are interested in volunteering to help bring more AARP programs to the U.P., contact Sally Bruce at email@example.com or 906-786-3827.
AARP also works as an advocate for older Americans both legislatively and within the legal system.
As a non-partisan advocate, AARP lobbies for legislation benefiting older Americans in Washington DC and in each state. Michigan’s state office is in Lansing about two-and-a-half blocks from the Capitol, making it easy for AARP to stay in touch with what’s happening legislatively in Michigan that will affect its older citizens. Currently, the priority is to reduce prescription drug costs, and to make it possible for citizens to get lower-price drugs from Canada. Expanding advance practice nursing and tele-health are also priorities to help make healthcare more widely available, especially in low-income and rural areas like the U.P. AARP has also lobbied for family caregivers, and supported the passage of bills in Michigan in 2016 and 2018 that help family caretakers care for their loved ones more effectively.
Legal advocacy is conducted through AARP’s affiliated charity, the AARP Foundation. To read about AARP’s affiliated charity, the AARP Foundation, and the work it does to promote economic opportunity, social connectedness, community service opportunities, and legal advocacy, see Part 2 in the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.
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, call (906) 225-1059.
Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.