Earlier this year I was asked by the Grey Power president to meet a delegation from the international division of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Grey Power’s equivalent in the United States.
Although we have the same purpose of advocating for the well-being of older people, there are some major differences – mainly in scale! That they have an international division gives you some idea. At root though the similarities between the organisations are greater.
The primary purpose of both organisations is to promote policies that benefit older people, and both have their roots in social concerns.
AARP started with a single woman, appalled at the plight of a former teacher in her community who she found living in a chicken coop in her retirement, and has remained focused on social good and the worst off in society.
That AARP has achieved a size that Grey Power Federation (GPF) can only dream of is largely due to the disparity in social services provided by the state in our two countries.
AARP can attract and keep members through a wide variety of benefits such as discounts on health insurance, that are unnecessary in New Zealand with a publicly funded health system.
It also seemed to me that AARP can be more effective politically because of the nature of Federal and State legislature in the USA. For example, in advocating for a reduction in the costs of prescription drugs, AARP was able to successfully persuade one senator whose vote was critical, to support the necessary legislation.
There were two factors in this campaign that are key learning points for GPF. Firstly, all politicians count votes, and thousands of older people marching on the streets definitely gets their attention.
Secondly, after the vote, the AARP put a lot of money and effort in publicly thanking the senator and making sure he got the credit.
Building relationships with our counterparts overseas and sharing experiences with them, is key to improving the well-being of older people everywhere.
Grey Power thanks AARP for this chance and looks forward to continuing contact.