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From Sex to Social Security: AARP has a Story to Tell

Jerry Florence
Group Executive Officer, Membership and Director of the AARP Foundation
The National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Atlanta, GA

Good morning. I'm Jerry Florence, AARP's Group Executive Officer of Membership and Director of the AARP Foundation.

Friends, I am the face of AARP. Don't be shy, go ahead and say it: "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

AARP is changing - growing better and stronger - reflecting the face of all Americans, for everyone's benefit.

AARP has a story to tell.

It's the story of a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization, helping people maintain their dignity, respect and sense of purpose as they age.

It's the story of an organization creating an environment where people over 50 successfully pursue meaningful, dynamic lives.

It's the story of Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, AARP's extraordinary founder. Behind the spectacles of retirement, she envisioned the need for an organization like AARP.

And she didn't wait for someone else to make it happen. She got busy. And since that time, AARP has given voice to older Americans.

Today, AARP is an inclusive organization, reaching out to every cultural community across the nation.

We continue speaking out on issues important to seniors - like retirement Security, health and long-term care, and other quality of life concerns. This is what we have done for nearly 50 years.

So, don't be surprised that we're talking about sex and drugs. Don't be shocked that the older couple down the street is still "doing it." It's not 25 year-olds snapping up Viagra and Cialis [see-AL-iss] from the pharmacy shelves.

In the past five years, we've done two studies examining the attitudes of people 45 and over about sex and sexual activity.

Both show that less stress and better health would make people more satisfied with sex.

Both studies also showed that having a spouse or regular partner also made a difference in sexual satisfaction and outlook on life.

In our current study, respondents strongly agreed that too much emphasis is placed on sex in our culture today. They were equally emphatic that sex is not just for the young.

And about half surveyed view sex as important to their overall quality of life.

There's a story to tell.

We could also take a whole day talking about drugs - prescription drugs, that is. It's one of the biggest concerns facing older people.

We all know prescription medications are priced out of reach. Pharmaceutical companies know they're priced out of reach.

Meanwhile, seniors head north and south of the border by the busload - or into cyberspace - in search of low-cost prescription medications.

But does every 65 year-old know that Medicare finally has a prescription drug benefit to help them save money?

Do they know they need to enroll in the program during 'open season,' just like any other health insurance?

Do low-income Medicare beneficiaries know they may be eligible to receive help to pay for this new benefit? Not enough of them know.

They need to hear that part of the story right now.

We're not doing a bad job telling our story. But as journalists, your reach is even greater. So, I invite all of you to tell AARP's story.

Many of you cover Social Security and other retirement security concerns. Some of you already know where AARP stands on Social Security reform.

The answer is 'no,' to any form of private accounts created from Social Security's trust funds. But 'yes,' to finding an avenue to keep Social Security solvent for future generations.

This issue is not about taking sides, it's about doing what's best for everybody.

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