Issues, not member trolling, led to AARP membership

By Vicki Hyatt | Sep 06, 2012

This week I finally took the plunge.

After receiving gentle reminders for the past year or two about joining AARP, I decided to become a dues-paying member.

The mail started coming, it seems, when I hit 55, and frankly, I didn’t appreciate it one bit. With people living longer, it doesn’t make sense to think of 55 as a “senior.” For those who end up as centenarians, that age is just slightly on the downhill side of midlife.

It’s not that AARP was annoying about their offers. They didn’t call repeatedly and at all hours and like the Telefund folks, and they only sent out cards of invitation referencing free gifts and discounts. It was that age where the “senior” bar was set that I found annoying.

In the end, it wasn’t the perks that prompted me to pay the annual membership fee. I did so after hearing the state AARP president discuss the organization and all it was working toward that tipped the scales.

James Wall spoke recently in Waynesville and outlined some of the activities AARP is involved in, including a program to package and distribute nutritional meal packets to the elderly who may not have enough to eat. He also discussed the organization’s efforts to give a voice to those who often are not heard.

I like the way the national organization is approaching discussions on the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs that are a lifeline to many seniors.

The nonpartisan organization has contracted with highly credentialed staff members from two opposing think tanks — the Heritage Foundation on the conservative side and the Brookings Institute on the liberal side.

There are 15 Medicare reform proposals and 12 proposals to revamp Social Security currently before Congress. The organization has booklets summarizing each plan, along with a brief analysis from the opposing analysts. In some cases, the pro and con points are made by a nationwide health care company.

I found the summaries extremely helpful and, in analyzing my personal take on the information, discovered my position on the solutions had little to do with whether they were backed by liberals or conservatives. Knowing the issues rather than just the labels made a difference. It was encouraging to see that ideas exist to address these complex issues, and I found they are ones where bipartisan support should be achievable.

I hope AARP has found the perfect way to get discussions on vital issues facing our nation off dead-center and break the partisan gridlock we have seen in Washington, D.C. that has paralyzed us as a nation.

Unlike the political campaign ads we will be barraged with as the election approaches, I feel like I can trust this information put together by AARP on issues we must confront to get our fiscal house in order.

In that end, that’s what prompted me to get over the feeling of annoyance about premature recruiting and join AARP.