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Current logo for AARP, in use since January 2007

AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, is a United States-based non-governmental organization and interest group, started and run by UnitedHealth Group. According to its mission statement,[1] it is "a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people age 50 and over ... dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as we age," which "provides a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members." AARP operates as a non-profit advocate for its members and as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States, and it also sells insurance, investment funds and other financial products. AARP claims over 40 million members,[2] making it one of the largest membership organizations in the United States.



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. Today, NRTA is a division within AARP. According to Andy Rooney, AARP was established by insurance salesman Leonard Davis in 1958, after he met Ethel Percy Andrus. Ms. Andrus was at the time helping teachers get health insurance through the National Retired Teachers Association. According to Rooney, Davis saw the opportunity to sell medical insurance to the elderly rather than just retired teachers and for that purpose put in $50,000 establishing AARP. According to Rooney, Davis established the Colonial Penn Insurance Company in order to control AARP, selling millions of dollars in insurance to its members through advertisings in AARP's magazine Modern Maturity and for several years Colonial Penn Insurance Co. became one of the most profitable in the U. S. In 1978, after a 60 Minutes report exposé, AARP got rid of Colonial Penn Insurance Co. and signed up with Prudential Insurance Co.[3] According to critics, until the 1980s AARP was controlled by businessman Leonard Davis, who promoted its image as a non-profit advocate of retirees in order to sell insurance to members.[4] In the 1990s, the United States Senate investigated AARP's non-profit status, with Republican Senator Alan Simpson, then chairman of the Finance Committee's Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy, questioning the organization's tax exempt status in congressional hearings. These investigations did not reveal sufficient evidence to change the organization's status.[5]

The organization was originally named American Association of Retired Persons, but to reflect that its focus had become broader than American retirees, in 1999 it officially changed its name to just "AARP" (pronounced one letter at a time, "A-A-R-P").[6] AARP no longer requires that members be retired.


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 claims 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.[7]

AARP Services, Inc., founded in 1999, is a wholly owned subsidiary of AARP. AARP Services manages the wide range of products and services that are offered as benefits to AARP’s 40 million 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. AARP Services develops new products, manages and markets products and services, creates and maintains partnership and sponsorship relationships, and develops and manages AARP’s Web site,

The AARP Foundation 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.

The organization also publishes AARP The Magazine[8] (known until 2002 as Modern Maturity), a magazine focusing on aging issues. Established in 1958, the magazine, distributed bi-monthly, is sent to every AARP member. AARP also publishes the AARP Bulletin.[9] AARP The Magazine and the AARP Bulletin are by far the two magazines with the highest circulation in the United States. AARP also produces Segunda Juventud, Live & Learn, and has a books division.

The organization also produces radio and television programs. 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 on the Prime Time Radio web site. 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. Movies for Grownups, a weekly 2-minute program hosted by AARP the Magazine Entertainment Editor Bill Newcott, is heard on stations nationwide and online at the radioprimetime website. Recent guests have included Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Ron Howard, Alfre Woodard, and Helen Hunt. The Movies for Grownups Awards ( are presented each February in Hollywood. My Generation is AARPs lifestyle show featuring nationally known experts including Dr. Elmer Huerta, Dr. Dorree Lynn covering issues from health and money to relationships and volunteering.

Health care

AARP has been active in health care policy debates since c. 1960 and its recent engagement is a reflection of this long-standing involvement.[10]

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.[11][12] AARP also addressed health care issues in their campaign targeting the 2008 elections with Divided We Fail.

Divided We Fail

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.[13] 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."[14]

In November 2007, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) joined the Divided We Fail leadership.[15]

The initiative uses 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

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 healthcare and financial security. The multigenerational focus is designed to reinforce the AARP's Divided We Fail coalition.[16]

Health insurance

Approximately seven million people have AARP branded health insurance, including drug coverage and medigap, as of April 2007 [17] and AARP earns more income from selling insurance to members than it does from membership dues.[18] 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.[17][19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]


In an editorial column in 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 above-mentioned Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, AARP leaders betrayed the membership.[23]

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,[24] and would benefit financially from passage of the legislation.[25]

BusinessWeek magazine says that in the past questions have arisen 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.[26]

At present, there are two affiliated organizations: the AARP Foundation which operates on a non-profit basis and AARP Services Inc. which is managed wholly for profit. The AARP Foundation runs programs on: free tax preparation and counseling, work training for older people of low income, training of volunteers on matters concerning the elderly, crime prevention and safe driving. AARP Services Inc. offers: Medicare supplemental health insurance, discounts on prescription drugs and consumer goods, entertainment and travel packages, long-term care insurance and automobile, home and life insurance.[27]

Per AARP's 2008 Consolidated Financials, it was paid $652,000,000 in royalties from insurance companies that sold products referred by AARP. Per those same financials AARP received an additional $120,000,000 for the ads placed in its publications. Here's the link:

2009 membership controversy

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 (ASA), which is opposed to President Obama's health care plan, is trying to capitalize on growing public dissatisfaction with the AARP."[28] However, according to Media Matters, AARP gained 400,000 members during the same period[29].

See also


  1. ^ AARP Mission Statement
  2. ^ AARP puts full force of 40 million members behind Congress’ efforts to give Medicare Rx bargaining power
  3. ^ Andy Rooney Sincerely, Andy Rooney, Public Affairs, 2001 ISBN 978-1586480455
  4. ^ Krugman, Paul. "Demographics and Destiny", New York Times, 20 October 1996
  5. ^ Charles P. Blahaus Reforming Social Security for Ourselves and Our Posterity, pp. 84–5, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000 ISBN 978-0275970444
  6. ^ AARP History
  7. ^ On Issues From Medicare to Medication, AARP's Money Will Be There Washington Post, 24 April 2007
  8. ^ AARP The Magazine
  9. ^ 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 
  10. ^ 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 (AARP Publications) 50 (10): 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...."" 
  11. ^ Barbara Berkman/Sarah D'Ambruoso Handbook of Social Work in Health and Aging, p. 820, Oxford University Press US, 2006 ISBN 978-0195173727
  12. ^ Larry N. Gerston American Federalism, p. 79, M. E. Sharpe, 2007 ISBN 978-0765616722
  13. ^ AARP, Business Roundtable and SEIU Partner to Spur Action on Health Care, Long-term Financial Security. January 16, 2007
  14. ^ AARP Mobilizing to Hound 2008 Candidates. March 22, 2007
  15. ^ NFIB Joins AARP, Business Roundtable and SEIU in Divided We Fail November 1, 2007
  16. ^ Bill Novelli Fifty Plus, p. xi, Macmillan, 2007 ISBN 978-0312354787
  17. ^ a b AARP Says It Will Become Major Medicare Insurer While Remaining a Consumer Lobby New York Times, 17 April 2007
  18. ^ Los Angeles Times
  19. ^ AARP Press Release accessed 17 April 2007
  20. ^ Benjamin Lipson JK Lasser's Choosing the Right Long-term Care Insurance, p. 140, John Wiley & Sons, 2002 ISBN 978-0471273493
  21. ^ AARP Orders Investigation Concerning Its Marketing, Robert Pear, New York Times, Nov. 18, 2008
  22. ^ Dan Eggen (2009-10-27). "AARP:Reform advocate and insurance salesman". Washington Post. pp. A1. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  23. ^ Van Atta, Dale (24 November 2003). "This Isn't the Old AARP". Los Angeles Times. 
  24. ^ AARP Life Insurance Program, retrieved October 31, 2006
  25. ^ Annenberg Public Policy Center report on AARP
  26. ^ By Raising Its Voice, AARP Raises Questions BusinessWeek, 14 March 2005, accessed 7 January 2008
  27. ^ Robert W. Kolb Encyclopedia of Business Ethics and Society (5 volumes),v. 1 p. 1, SAGE, 2008 ISBN 978-1412916523
  28. ^ "AARP, Losing Members Over Health Care, Faces Challenge From Grassroots Senior Advocacy Group". Fox News. 2009-08-18. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  29. ^

Further reading

  • Dale Van Atta, Trust Betrayed: Inside the AARP (Regnery Publishing,1998). ISBN 0-89526-485-4
  • Charles R. Morris, The AARP: America's Most Powerful Lobby and the Clash of Generations (Crown, 1996). ISBN 0-8129-2753-2
  • Peter G. Peterson, Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old? How the Coming Social Security Crisis Threatens You, Your Family, and Your Country (Random House, 1996). ISBN 0-679-45256-7

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. American Association of Retired Persons


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