AARP Enriches Lives
SPONSORED BY AARP | 10401 Linn Station Rd #121, Louisville, KY 40223 | (866) 295-7275 | firstname.lastname@example.org | By Carrie Vittitoe | Photos by Kylene White
It isn’t uncommon for people to have one of two reactions when they think about AARP: they groan at the prospect of their age making them eligible for membership in AARP or they think that all AARP does is insurance based on the television commercials they’ve seen. What lots of people don’t realize is that AARP is a source of education, camaraderie, and opportunity for the individuals who become involved with the organization.
Alma Wooley spent 28 years in the Army Reserve, 30 years as a teacher, and has been a church pastor for close to two decades. She knew she couldn’t just sit around in her retirement years. “I wanted to spend time with people my age that have similar things going on in their lives,” she says. She was an AARP member, but knew little about AARP volunteer opportunities until a friend told her about his volunteer work. When she attended a Louisville Community Team meeting, she was immediately sold. “I just fell in love at that moment. I said, ‘I’ve got to be a part of that organization,’” she says. Her heart is in advocacy; right now, she is working as a spokesperson for an AARP-funded research project on health disparities in Louisville. “I’ve got my hand in a little bit of everything,” she says.
Jackie Baker, who retired from the Cabinet of Health & Family Services in 2012, learned about AARP from a Fraud Watch presentation at her church. She attended a Community Team meeting and discovered the many ways in which she could be involved. As important as the social benefits of her volunteer work have been, what Jackie finds especially meaningful is her increased knowledge of other people’s experiences and the understanding that has come with that. She participated in Age-Friendly Cities, an initiative with the Louisville mayor, to discuss issues that impact Louisville’s older adults and learned how many people in the community do not have easy access to public transportation which can have all kinds of impacts, including on their health if it is too difficult for them to get to doctor appointments. “It is an eye-opener,”she says.
Jackie White’s volunteer capacity at AARP Kentucky is on the Executive Council, an advisory committee that brings together AARP volunteers throughout the state to discuss their unique needs to help guide programming and outreach. “We are very different geographically [and] represent different areas, but we all come together,” she says. Although there are commonalities between all people 50 plus, the needs of Appalachian residents look a little different from the needs of Dawson Springs residents and Louisvillians. As a member of this committee, Jackie finds great fulfillment because of the mission which she says is “to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” and this comes by focusing on issues like health and security, caregiving, financial resilience, and employment.
Tihisha Rawlins is AARP Kentucky Associate State Director – Outreach and has been the point person for many of the volunteers who have found so many opportunities within AARP. “It is my job to educate our members about those issues that would be important to or have an impact on people 50 plus,” she says. Throughout her 17 years in this role, she has helped educate AARP members on various issues including prescription drug coverage when Medicare added this feature to the program. Affordable housing has become an incredibly important issue for Kentuckians at every age. “My goal is to make sure people have access to affordable, quality housing throughout their lifespan,” she says. Quality of life issues are also an important piece of Tihisha’s outreach work, whether that is sex at 50 plus or how to keep one’s cognitive skills sharp over time. She has long believed in AARP’s mission and loves helping people age with positivity and purpose.
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