So what, you ask? A lot of people belong to AARP.
Well, it took me nearly 20 years before I took the plunge and signed up for membership.
As most of you know, AARP is the former American Association of Retired Persons. It no longer uses that long name because you do not have to be retired to join the organization that is 40 million strong. All you have to be is 50 years old. I’m now 70.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1958 by retired educator Ethel Percy Andrus. She started the organization in response to the need for health insurance for retired teachers.
As the organization evolved, the organization became more focused on issues facing all older people so membership was opened to anyone over 50.
Now, AARP provides its members with a bevy of benefits — including discounts on health and auto insurance, prescription drugs, entertainment, and travel packages. AARP also serves as a lobbying tool for its members, and offers financial and health advice. zationan
So, why did it take me so long to join?
I like to tell everyone that I held off joining because of some negative stories I heard or read about AARP when I was younger. For example, in 1978, “60 Minutes” did a segment on AARP that questioned some of its practices. The TV news show claimed that AARP was merely a marketing ploy to sell insurance to its members. The report claimed that Leonard Davis, founder of Colonial Penn Life Insurance companies, had formed a partnership with AARP to peddle life insurance.
The organization eventually ended its relationship with Davis and put its insurance carrier program up for bid.
Then, in the 1990s, the U.S. Senate investigated AARP’s nonprofit status. However, the Senate didn’t find any discrepancies, so the organization got to keep its nonprofit status.
I was also reluctant to have my money be used for lobbying, especially if I disagreed with AARP on a particular issue.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve mellowed about my issues with AARP. Finally, I signed up last year. I figure the benefits now outweigh the negative feelings I once had about the organization.
Besides, 40 million members — including first lady Michelle Obama — must believe joining AARP is the right thing to do. I must admit that I look forward to receiving the monthly AARP magazine.
I’ve come to learn that growing older isn’t so bad after all. In fact, it can have its advantages. I like the fact that I can get discounts at stores and special savings on other purchases.
Yes, my body is showing definite signs of aging. I can do without the aches and pains.
But now I have AARP in my corner, offering me plenty of discounts — and, more importantly, tips on how to deal with growing older.
I’m glad I now have AARP on my side. It just took me a long time to decide.
— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist