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AARP, Inc.
American Association of Retired Persons (logo).png
AARP logo, eff. January 2007
AARP HQ 6th at E NW DC.jpg
Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Motto "Real Possibilities."
Predecessor National Retired Teachers Association
Formation 1958
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Chief Executive Officer
Jo Ann Jenkins[1]
Jeannine English[1]
Board Chair
Carol Raphael[1]
Subsidiaries AARP Foundation;
AARP Institute;
Legal Counsel for the Elderly;
AARP Experience Corps;
AARP Insurance Plan;
AARP Financial Services Corporation;
AARP Services Inc[1]
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014) $1,468,824,000[2]
Formerly called
American Association of Retired Persons

AARP, Inc., formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, is a United States-based membership and interest group, founded in 1958 by Ethel Percy Andrus, Ph.D., a retired educator from California, and Leonard Davis, founder of Colonial Penn Group of insurance companies.[3][4]

AARP is a membership organization for people age 50 and over and operates as a non-profit advocate for its members and is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States.

AARP has seven affiliated organizations: AARP Foundation, a non-profit charity that helps people over age 50 at social and economic risk; AARP Institute, a non-profit charity that holds some of AARP's charitable gift annuity funds; Legal Counsel for the Elderly, a non-profit charity that provides low- or no-cost legal assistance to seniors in Washington, D.C.; AARP Experience Corps, a non-profit charity that encourages people over age 50 to mentor and tutor school children; AARP Insurance Plan, a non-profit social welfare organization that holds some of AARP's group health insurance policies; AARP Financial Services Corporation, a for-profit corporation that holds AARP's real estate; and AARP Services Inc, a for-profit corporation that provides quality control and research.[1][5] According to AARP's 2008 Consolidated financial statements, AARP Services Inc. was paid $652,000,000 in royalties from insurance companies that sold products referred by AARP. AARP also received an additional $120,000,000 for the advertisements placed in its publications.[6]

The AARP Foundation's website says the nonprofit "wants to win back opportunity for those now in crisis, so thousands of vulnerable low-income Americans 50+ can regain their foothold, continue to serve as anchors for their families and communities and ensure that their best life is still within reach." Key areas of focus are hunger, income, housing and isolation. The Foundation's vision is "a country that is free of poverty where no older person feels vulnerable".

As of April 2014, AARP says it has more than 37 million members,[7] making it one of the largest membership organizations in the United States.


According to the group's official history, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus founded AARP in 1958. AARP evolved from the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA), which Andrus had established in 1947 to promote her philosophy of productive aging, and in response to the need of health insurance for retired teachers. After ten years, Andrus opened the organization to all Americans over 50, creating AARP.[8] Today, the NRTA is a division within AARP. Dr. Andrus founded AARP while living in Ojai, California, where she had established an innovative new retirement home named Grey Gables. Ojai served as national headquarters for AARP from 1958 until the mid-1960s. Honors to Dr. Andrus include National Teacher of the Year in 1954, induction into the Women's Hall of Fame and, more recently, a medallion placed on the Points of Light Institute's "Extra Mile Pathway" in downtown Washington, D.C.[citation needed]

Some critics of AARP offer an alternative version of the group's origins. 60 Minutes reported in a 1978 exposé that AARP had been established as a marketing device by Leonard Davis, founder of the Colonial Penn Group insurance companies, after he met Ethel Percy Andrus.[9] According to critics, until the 1980s AARP was controlled by Mr. Davis, who promoted its image as a non-profit advocate of retirees in order to sell insurance to members.[10] Possibly as a result of the 60 Minutes report, AARP conducted a lengthy competitive bidding process, and, in 1980, shifted the insurance contracts made available to members to Prudential Financial.[11]

In the 1990s, the United States Senate investigated AARP's non-profit status, with Republican Senator Alan Simpson, then chairman of the United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, questioning the organization's tax-exempt status in congressional hearings. According to Charles Blahous, the investigations did not reveal sufficient evidence to change the organization's status,[12] though in an interview years later by the Des Moines Register, Senator Simpson remained "troubled by AARP's practices", calling AARP "the biggest marketing operation in America and money-maker" and an organization whose practices are "the greatest abuse of American generosity I witnessed in my time in the U.S. Senate".[13]

The organization was originally named the American Association of Retired Persons, but in 1999 it officially changed its name to "AARP" (pronounced one letter at a time, "ay ay ar pee") to reflect that its focus was no longer American retirees.[14] AARP no longer requires that members be retired, but be at least age 50; it does not extend full membership privileges to applicants who are retired but not yet 50.



AARP is widely known for addressing issues affecting older Americans through a multitude of initiatives, including lobbying efforts at the state and national governmental level, an activity permitted by its 501(c)(4) status. The organization says that it is non-partisan and does not support, oppose or give money to any candidates or political parties. AARP's total revenue for 2006 was approximately $1 billion and it spent $23 million on lobbying.[15] Middle-class security has been a major focus for the organization in recent years.[16] AARP also provides extensive consumer information, volunteer opportunities, and events including the annual National Event & Expo (2013 in Las Vegas from May 30-June 1 and in Atlanta from Oct. 3-5). One of AARP's goals is to reduce hunger among seniors through the Drive to End Hunger. AARP and AARP Foundation have a new relationship with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports to increase awareness of hunger in America with the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger race car and related food drives.[17]

AARP launched Life Reimagined in May 2013, calling it a "first-of-its-kind series of online and offline experiences that guide people through life transitions by helping them discover new possibilities and connect with a community of people pursuing similar passions and goals".[18] USA Today called Life Reimagined "the latest step for the AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) as it continues to rebrand itself and become the go-to address for feeling good about aging.[19]

AARP Services, Inc. and AARP Financial Incorporated[edit]

AARP Services, Inc., founded in 1999, is a wholly owned taxable subsidiary of AARP. AARP Services manages the wide range of products and services that are offered as benefits to AARP's members. The offers span health products, travel and leisure products, and life event services. Specific products include Medicare supplemental insurance; member discounts on rental cars, cruises, vacation packages and lodging; special offers on technology and gifts; pharmacy services; legal services; and long-term care insurance. AARP Services founded AARP Financial Incorporated, a subsidiary that manages AARP-endorsed financial products including AARP Funds. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in June 2010, AARP Financial announced the discontinuation of AARP Funds[20]"AARP Financial Announces Discontinuation of AARP Funds".  AARP Services develops new products, manages and markets products and services, and creates and maintains partnership and sponsorship relationships.

The AARP Foundation[edit]

The AARP Foundation[21] is AARP's affiliated charity. Foundation programs provide security, protection and empowerment for older persons in need. Low-income older workers receive the job training and placement they need to re-join the workforce. Free tax preparation is provided for low- and moderate-income individuals, with special attention to those 60 and older. The Foundation's litigation staff protects the legal rights of older Americans in critical health, long-term care, consumer and employment situations. Additional programs provide information, education, and services to ensure that people over 50 lead lives of independence, dignity, and purpose. Foundation programs are funded by grants, tax-deductible contributions and AARP.

AARP Driver Safety[edit]

In 1979, AARP introduced the nation's first-ever driver safety course geared towards older adults. AARP Driver Safety,[22] which can be completed in a classroom setting or online, teaches defensive driving techniques and provides "added information on age-related cognitive and physical changes that affect driving."[23] The course is instructed and promoted by volunteers throughout the U.S.

A half-million people completed the courses in 2012.[24]

AARP publications and broadcasts[edit]

English language[edit]

  • The organization publishes AARP The Magazine[25] (known until 2002 as Modern Maturity), a lifestyle magazine for people 50+. Established in 1958,[26] the magazine is distributed bi-monthly to AARP members. AARP also publishes the AARP Bulletin.[27]

AARP The Magazine and the AARP Bulletin with their approximately 40 Million circulation are by far the two magazines with the highest circulation in the United States. The organization also produces radio and television programs and has a book division.

  • Inside E Street, hosted by broadcast journalist Lark McCarthy, takes a "nonpartisan, civil look into issues critical to Americans"[28]
  • The Journal, AARP's International Office releases a policy publication on health and financial security issues facing a global aging population.[29]
  • Prime Time Radio, hosted by veteran broadcaster Mike Cuthbert, is a one-hour weekly interview program that focuses on the wide-ranging interests and concerns of Americans 40 and older. The program is heard on radio stations across the country as well as online at[30]
  • Prime Time Focus, hosted by Alyne Ellis, is a 90-second daily feature with a five-minute weekend edition heard on more than 500 stations.

Spanish language[edit]

AARP en Español is the Association's bilingual multimedia platform. Offerings include a Spanish-language website, a Spanish-language YouTube channel and informational resources.

Health care[edit]

AARP has been active in health care policy debates since c. 1960 and its recent engagement is a reflection of this long-standing involvement.[31]

AARP's public stances influenced the United States Congress' passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which authorized the creation of Medicare Part D, in 2003, and also influenced the Congress by resisting radical changes to Social Security in 2005.[32][33] AARP also addressed health care issues in their campaign targeting the 2008 elections with Divided We Fail.

In an editorial column within the Los Angeles Times, critic Dale Van Atta wrote that AARP does unauthorized lobbying for its membership, and lobbies against the best interests of its membership. Van Atta says that by lobbying for the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, AARP leaders betrayed the membership.[34]

Divided We Fail[edit]

In early 2007, AARP launched "Divided We Fail", designed to address health care and long-term financial security. The initiative was launched with Business Roundtable and the Service Employees International Union, and encompasses advertising in national outlets and in the primary states, online activities, and traditional grassroots work, in order to engage the public, business and elected officials in the debate, and to encourage public leaders to offer solutions, according to the AARP.[35] Nancy LeaMond, executive officer for social impact, said, "We want to really get to these candidates and ask for action, answers and accountability on these questions."[36]

In November 2007, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) joined the Divided We Fail leadership.[37]

The initiative used an "elephonkey" mixed animal as its symbol, with the head and forelegs of the Republican elephant and the ears, hindquarters, and tail of the kicking Democratic donkey. "Champ" quickly became a recognizable symbol of the Divided We Fail initiative, fostered in part by television commercials that ran across the country. In addition, Divided We Fail Florida incorporated the initiative's mascot into an interactive educational vehicle, dubbed the "Champmobile", which traveled across the state and throughout the United States encouraging voters to "Let your voice be heard!"

Future Champions[edit]

In February 2007, AARP announced the launch of a new advertising campaign designed to address issues that will impact future generations and showcase the AARP brand. The campaign, called "Future Champions", features children talking about the state of health care and financial security. The multigenerational focus is designed to reinforce the AARP's Divided We Fail coalition.[38]

Health insurance[edit]

Approximately seven million people have AARP branded health insurance, including drug coverage and Medigap, as of April 2007[39] and AARP earns more income from selling insurance to members than it does from membership dues.[40] In 2008, AARP plans to begin offering several new health insurance products: an HMO for Medicare recipients, in partnership with UnitedHealth Group; and a PPO and "a high-deductible insurance policy that could be used with a health savings account" to people aged 50–64, in partnership with Aetna. AARP will likely become the largest source of health insurance for Medicare recipients, and AARP estimates the new products will increase its health insurance customers to 14 million by 2014.[39][41]

AARP is not an insurer and does not pay insurance claims. Instead, AARP allows its name to be used by insurance companies in the sale of insurance products, for which it is paid a commission like an insurance agent.[42]

Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in 2008 that the "limited benefit" insurance plans offered by AARP through UnitedHealth provided inadequate coverage and were marketed deceptively. One plan offered $5,000 for surgery that may cost two or three times that amount.[43]

AARP does a "thriving business" in marketing branded Medigap policies. As of October 2009, Medical care reform contained a proposal to trim an associated program Medicare Advantage, which was expected to increase demand for Medigap policies.[44] However, as cited above, AARP also brands a Medicare Advantage plan (MedicareComplete), and would also be subject to cuts under health care reform.[45]

According to an Annenberg Public Policy Center report, critics have said AARP had a conflict of interest in supporting the Act, because AARP "derives income from the sale of health and life insurance policies", by licensing its brand to insurance dealers such as New York Life,[46] and would benefit financially from passage of the legislation.[47]

In 2004 BusinessWeek said questions have arisen in the past about whether AARP's commercial interests may conflict with those of its membership, and characterizes many of the funds and insurance policies that AARP markets as providing considerably less benefit than seniors could get on their own.[48]

Single payer[edit]

On the other hand, single-payer advocates have criticized AARP for not supporting the single-payer or public option during the health care debate.[49] Single-payer advocates supported H.R. 676, proposed by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). AARP released a statement explaining to its members why the organization was not supporting H.R. 676:

Starting over with a new, "single-payer" program will not eliminate the problems Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP currently face, such as the spiraling costs of procedures and prescription medications, as well as technological advances that are often not comprehensively tested to be proven safe or effective before marketing. H.R. 676 does not address the problem of increasing health-care costs. Rather, it allows costs to continue to grow, which will result in unaffordable coverage.

John Rother, AARP's former chief lobbyist, said the single-payer model would "disrupt the system that is currently in place" and "would require a very significant tax increase." But Rother admitted that it would be possible to design a system that would avoid these problems and function well. AARP's priorities now are to protect the current programs and implement the Affordable Care Act. Rother said that any effort to promote single payer would be undercutting health reform. Rother said. "To go to a single-payer you do have to trust government. The climate we're in right now is a very hostile climate for something like that."[49]

Rother also thought that an educational effort on the benefits of single payer would undercut the ACA. AARP has not published any material relating to single-payer health insurance on its website, in its several hundred page policy book, or through its Public Policy Institute.[49]

Approximately 60,000 AARP members quit AARP between July 1 and August 18, 2009, in a controversy that arose over AARP's support for U.S. health care reform. FOX News stated, "The Atlanta-based American Seniors Association, which is opposed to President Obama's health care plan, is trying to capitalize on growing public dissatisfaction with the AARP." AARP spokesman Drew Nannis responded that AARP loses about 300,000 members a month on average, and the controversial 60,000 of those that had left had specified leaving over the Health Care debate. Nannis also stated that the AARP gained 400,000 members and that 1.5 million members renewed their memberships within the same period of time.[50] The American Seniors Association is a for-profit organization operated by the American Seniors Association Holding Group, Inc (ASAHG, Inc).[51][52]

Social Security[edit]

Since March 2012, AARP’s You’ve Earned a Say campaign has sought to foster nonpartisan conversations about how to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch reported, "AARP took the debate about Medicare and Social Security from what it called behind closed doors in Washington to a series of town hall meetings around the country to make sure retirees have a voice in the discussion."[53]

In June 2011, AARP dropped its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits. A news release[54] emphasized "AARP has not changed its position on Social Security." In 2005 AARP led the effort to kill President George W. Bush's plan for partial privatization. AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain. John Rother, AARP's policy chief and a prime mover for the new position, said "The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens." AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women's groups and liberal advocacy organizations created to fight Social Security benefit cuts. Lebron James said "The coalition's role was to kind of anchor the left, and our role is going to be to actually get something done".[55]

Executive compensation, benefits, and travel[edit]

According to AARP's IRS return, Chief Executive Officer Addison B. Rand received $1,073,328 of salary and benefits in 2013 from AARP and its subsidiaries.[1]

All board members, officers, and key employees fly first class on flights longer than five hours unless business class is available.[1] The Chief Executive Officer flies first-class on all flights longer than 90 minutes.[1]

Charity Watch rated AARP a B- in 2011.[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Tax" (PDF). AARP. Guidestar. December 31, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Consolidated Financial Statements Together with Report of Independent Certified Public Accountants" (PDF). AARP. December 31, 2014. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Kolb, Robert W. (2008), Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society 1, Sage, p. 1, ISBN 978-1-4129-1652-3 
  6. ^ Archived June 15, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "AARP's Mission, Vision, Advocacy, Community Service & Products". AARP. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  8. ^ "Ethel Andrus (1884 - 1967)". National Women's History Museum. 
  9. ^ Rooney, Andy (1999). Sincerely, Andy Rooney (1st ed.). New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 1891620347. 
  10. ^ Krugman, Paul (20 October 1996). "Demographics and Destiny". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Rooney, Andy (2009). Sincerely, Andy Rooney. PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-0786731350. Retrieved 2016-01-05. 
  12. ^ Charles P. Blahaus Reforming Social Security for Ourselves and Our Posterity, pp. 84–5, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000 ISBN 978-0-275-97044-4
  13. ^ "Congress right to investigate AARP". Editorial. Des Moines Register. April 11, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. In the mid-1990s Congress launched an investigation, asking questions about its tax status and business ventures. That was led by former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. When The Register interviewed him several years later, he was still troubled by AARP's practices. Simpson told us the organization was "the biggest marketing operation in America and money-maker". He said that what the organization does "is the greatest abuse of American generosity I witnessed in my time in the U.S. Senate". 
  14. ^ AARP History[dead link]
  15. ^ Birnbaum, Jeffrey H. (24 April 2007). "On Issues From Medicare to Medication, AARP's Money Will Be There". The Washington Post. 
  16. ^ "AARP: Retirement Security in Doubt for Middle Class". Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Drive to End Hunger website". 2011-09-16. Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  18. ^ "AARP Launches Life Reimagined to Offer Ways for Discovering New Possibilities and Navigating "What’s Next"". Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  19. ^ Jayson, Sharon. "AARP to coach aging Boomers 'reimagining' their lives" USA Today, 28 May 2013. Retrieved on 2013-5-28.
  20. ^ AARP news release.
  21. ^ "AARP Foundation". AARP. 2011-03-31. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  22. ^ "". 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  23. ^ AARP Driver Safety - from: AARP (2010-01-01). "AARP Driver Safety Program History and Facts". Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  24. ^ "500,000 People Complete AARP Driver Safety". Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  25. ^ "AARP The Magazine". AARP The Magazine. June 13, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Top 100 U.S. Magazines by Circulation" (PDF). PSA Research Center. Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  27. ^ AARP Bulletin basic information: subtitled "The Newspaper for 50-Plus America"; published monthly 10-times per year; receipt of publication requires AARP membership and additional subscription fee. Information from: "(publication information found in each print issue)". AARP Bulletin (Washington, DC: AARP). July–August 2009. ISSN 1044-1123. OCLC 19685775. 
  28. ^ "Inside E Street - Non-Partisan TV Program, Civil Issues Critical to 50+ Americans — AARP". Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  29. ^ "The Journal". AARP International. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  30. ^ "". Radio Primetime. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  31. ^ Rand, A. Barry (1 December 2009). "Health Care Reform Marches On (online title: Why AARP Endorsed the House Health Care Bill)". AARP Bulletin. Where We Stand 50 (10) (AARP Publications). pp. 16–17. ISSN 1044-1123. Archived from the original on 18 December 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2009. AARP has been a strong advocate for health care reform for over 50 years...." 
  32. ^ Barbara Berkman/Sarah D'Ambruoso Handbook of Social Work in Health and Aging, p. 820, Oxford University Press US, 2006 ISBN 978-0-19-517372-7
  33. ^ Larry N. Gerston American Federalism, p. 79, M. E. Sharpe, 2007 ISBN 978-0-7656-1672-2
  34. ^ Van Atta, Dale (24 November 2003). "This Isn't the Old AARP". Los Angeles Times. 
  35. ^ AARP, Business Roundtable and SEIU Partner to Spur Action on Health Care, Long-term Financial Security. January 16, 2007
  36. ^ AARP Mobilizing to Hound 2008 Candidates. March 22, 2007
  37. ^ NFIB Joins AARP, Business Roundtable and SEIU in Divided We Fail November 1, 2007
  38. ^ Bill Novelli (2007). Fifty Plus. Macmillan. p. xi. ISBN 978-0-312-35478-7. 
  39. ^ a b Pear, Robert (17 April 2007). "AARP Says It Will Become Major Medicare Insurer While Remaining a Consumer Lobby". The New York Times. 
  40. ^ Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (March 6, 2006). "New Drug Program Is a Benefit for AARP". Los Angeles Times. 
  41. ^ AARP Press Release accessed 17 April 2007 Archived May 19, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ Benjamin Lipson JK Lasser's Choosing the Right Long-term Care Insurance, p. 140, John Wiley & Sons, 2002 ISBN 978-0-471-27349-3
  43. ^ Pear, Robert (19 November 2008). "AARP Orders Investigation Concerning Its Marketing". The New York Times. 
  44. ^ Dan Eggen (2009-10-27). "AARP:Reform advocate and insurance salesman". Washington Post. pp. A1. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  45. ^ "Medicare advantage plans". 
  46. ^ AARP Life Insurance Program, retrieved October 31, 2006
  47. ^ "Public Policy Center report on AARP". Annenberg Public Policy Center. Archived from Annenberg the original Check |url= value (help) on 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  48. ^ By Raising Its Voice, AARP Raises Questions BusinessWeek, 14 March 2005, accessed 7 January 2008
  49. ^ a b c Should universal care advocates bite their tongues on single-payer? Remapping Debate, June 8, 2011, By Mike Alberti
  50. ^ "AARP, Losing Members Over Health Care, Faces Challenge From Grassroots Senior Advocacy Group". Fox News. August 18, 2009. Archived from the original on 13 September 2009. Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
  51. ^ "AMSA.PK Profile". AMSA.PK Profile. Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  52. ^
  53. ^ Hazard, Carol."Retirees highlight Social Security, Medicare at AARP meeting" Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA 20 March 2012. Retrieved on 2013-5-28.
  54. ^ from: Press Center - June 17, 2011 (2011-06-17). "AARP Has Not Changed Its Position on Social Security". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  55. ^ Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut By LAURA MECKLER, Wall Street Journal, JUNE 17, 2011
  56. ^ Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report 59, December 2011 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lynch, Frederick R. (2011). One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security, and America's Future. University of California Press. 
  • Morris, Charles R. (1996). The AARP: America's Most Powerful Lobby and the Clash of Generations. Crown. ISBN 0-8129-2753-2.