81.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, December 3, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesNot for Profit: AARP

Not for Profit: AARP

Feb. 19, 2007 — A lot has happened since Denyce E. Singleton got hired as State Director of the AARP seven years ago.
For starters, the organization, whose acronym originally stood for American Association of Retired Persons, is no longer that. The name was shortened in 1999 to just four letters: AARP.
"We found that people were no longer retiring," Singleton says. Instead, she says, people are more likely to work well past the retirement age of 65. In addition, the age requirement to join the AARP was lowered from 55 years old to 50, says Singleton, a volunteer promoted in 2000 to head the state office. That office oversees three local chapters, one on each island, which have existed since 1977. The state office serves as the "guiding hand" for the local chapters, she says.
"Our purpose it so educate, inform and advocate for issues on the local and national level, and to provide community service wherever we find needs and gaps in the community," Singleton says, speaking between shift duties at the Agricultural and Food Fair. There, she and a host of volunteers set up shop under a shady tent, handing out brochures and historical information about AARP, which is more than 19,000 strong in the Virgin Islands. Nationally, the AARP has more than 35 million members who are part of the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people age 50 and over.
The group was founded in 1958 by Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal. It evolved from the National Retired Teachers' Association, which she established in 1947 to promote her philosophy of productive aging, and in response to retired teachers' need for health insurance. At the time, private health insurance was virtually unavailable to older Americans. In fact, it wasn't until 1965 that the federal government enacted Medicare, which provides health benefits to people over age 65.
Since its inception, AARP has grown and changed in response to societal changes and is known for providing a host of services to this ever-growing segment of the population by:
— Informing members and the public on issues important to the age group;
— Advocating on legislative, consumer and legal issues;
— Promoting community service; and
— Offering a wide range of special products and services to members.
Locally, the AARP has participated in several health fairs with the V.I. Medical Institute; co-sponsored a forum on emergency preparedness and worked with the V.I. National Guard to spread the word on the benefits of immunization. AARP currently works on helping residents better understand the Medicaid Assistance Program after federally mandated changes to streamline the process. Last year, the group proved successful in pushing for legislation to address the unfunded liability of the Government Employees' Retirement System.
The state office, located at the Sunny Isle Annex, is a 3,000-square-foot building, complete with a conference room and classroom and state-of-the art equipment, where members can learn computers or participate in driver-safety courses, among other activities.
AARP is more than just about discounts, Singleton says, adding that members have testified before the Legislature, appeared on talk shows "and partner with anybody. We are there as long as it deals with issues affecting those 50 and over."
The state office is run by a paid staff of four, including herself. All other workers are volunteers, she says.
Now residents can talk with volunteers in person, who will help them with their needs — whatever those may be.
"We first assess their needs and then we do referrals," Singleton says. "It's better than before, because people would get a telephone number to call and nobody to help you ask the right questions. Now they can actually come here and talk to volunteers. We help them navigate the system. We tell them where to go, who to call and what to ask. We provide any kind of assistance the members needs and, most of the time, if we can't, we provide them with a telephone number they can call to reach an expert."
Other benefits to AARP membership include homeowners' insurance and life and health insurance, in addition to travel and shopping discounts. Singleton hopes the organization will soon be able to offer automobile and dental insurance.
Every three years the AARP surveys its members "to see if they're satisfied, and how we could better serve them," Singleton says. "We've found that our members are satisfied because we have those insurances in place. But they've told us they would be even more satisfied with automobile insurance."
When the group is not meeting at its headquarters or sharing information in arenas like the Agricultural and Food Fair, members can read up on the organization's progress on legislative, legal or national issues via the bimonthly "AARP" magazine and "The Bulletin," published monthly. The national AARP office publishes both publications in English and Spanish and mails them to each member's home.
Locally, Singleton says, the AARP publishes "The Navigator." She says 14,000 copies get inserted in the V.I. Daily News on a quarterly basis.
"This is to help younger people — to give them the information they need to help their parents," Singleton says.
Taking the job when the state office was established seven years ago offered Singleton a way to pay off some old debts.
"I really wanted to give back to the community because of the way they came through for us," she says. Singleton says she raised twins who were swimmers, and that they held a lot of fund-raising activities. The twins eventually went to Harvard, she says.
"I dearly love my job, because it is so gratifying when you see the confusion lift and you're truly helping people make their quality of life better," Singleton says.
Without AARP, Singleton says, she can't imagine where residents would be.
"There are seniors here in frail health that do not have anyone looking out for them, and they are the ones who would be in big trouble," she says. "I often wonder, if AARP wasn't here, how would people get these kinds of services?"
The state office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, often filled with people requesting help, Singleton says.
"The best advertising is word of mouth," she says. "People come to us because we've helped someone and that person tells someone else of our services."
Membership has doubled since the opening of the state office, and AARP will continue to advocate for them whenever and wherever necessary, she says.
"Our vision is for a society in which everyone ages with dignity and purpose, and one in which the AARP helps them fulfill their goals and dreams," she says. "Because 50 is the new 40, and people are just beginning to enjoy life; they're not fading away."
For more information, contact AARP at 713-2001.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.