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Marketing Social Change

On a related issue, obesity among the old and the young is advancing. And America leads the world in this major risk factor. Perhaps we need an intergenerational program, such as grandparents exercising with their grandchildren. We certainly need to deal with childhood obesity. I even have a slogan for the campaign: "Leave No Child with a Big Behind." And we must look at other health promotion opportunities, as well.

Next on our social impact agenda is more livable communities. To be more "livable," communities must include the physical features and readily accessible services that enable older residents to remain independent. Better transportation is the top priority, but not the only one. Making communities safe from crime is also important. And it’s important for older people—in fact, all people, for that matter—to reside close to basic services, such as food and pharmacies, medical services and places to worship. Sidewalks, centers where people can socialize, restaurants and libraries are also necessary.

We have made livable communities one of the priorities on our ten-year social impact agenda because we want to make sure that people are able to stay mobile and avoid isolation as they age. That means that they must have adequate options when driving is not feasible, and that competent drivers retain their driving privileges to the maximum extent possible.

We also want to ensure that Americans have appropriate and affordable housing options that enable them to age in place, in their communities. More than four in five Americans say they would like to remain in their current residence for as long as possible.

But, elderly homeowners, especially those with lower incomes, face significant barriers to remaining in their own homes. We need to break down those barriers. We recently initiated a collaboration with Fannie Mae that is very promising. Among other things, we are collaborating on anti-predatory lending guidelines. And with The Home Depot, we are looking at the possibility of a presence in every one of their stores to teach people how to modify their homes—or their parents homes—to live independently as long as possible.

As we adapt to our aging society, we are finding that we can learn a lot from the experiences of other countries—especially those whose populations are older than ours. And there is much we can teach them. So, we are becoming more engaged in international dialogues on global aging. Our goal is to ensure that nations exchange experiences and best practices on global aging issues.

The final priority on our social impact agenda is navigation, or useful access to information. We can’t lead positive social change if the people we seek to help don’t have access to, and use the information and resources they need. Through information technology and helpful volunteers, we want to provide one-stop access to needed information and resources—community-by-community—on a national scale. It’s a big challenge, but we believe it can make a huge difference in people’s lives.

A key part of achieving social change is a relentless focus on the target audiences. I have been talking about the boomer population. How do they compare to Americans who are older than they are? How has AARP been able to recruit the boomers and appeal to them, while remaining relevant to our older members? Our research suggests the answers.

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