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Respect Age International

Yash Aggarwal
Member, AARP Board of Directors
The National Convention of All India Association of Senior Citizens Forum on in Agra, India

September 17, 2005

Thank you very much. Before I address the topic at hand, I want to say a word about the catastrophe that has befallen the Gulf Coast region of the United States. My professional training is as a seismologist, so I know a thing or two about the havoc that a natural disaster can wreak. But the harrowing images I've seen leave me absolutely speechless.

Nearly nine months ago, we all witnessed this part of the world cope with the devastating effects of the tsunami, and only a month ago the residents of Mumbai braved the fury of the killer monsoon rains. Please keep the thousands of displaced Americans in your thoughts, and pray that they will have the same strength, courage and resolve demonstrated by India in the face of the tsunami.

It's a great honor to be here to discuss the ways that AARP has become an effective champion for older citizens in the United States. I have spent much of my career promoting partnership between the land of my origin and my adopted home. And I can think of no more important area of bilateral cooperation than tackling the challenges of an aging population. Nothing would make me prouder than to see AARP's experience help you become better advocates for India's older citizens.

From its very inception, AARP has had an interest in international affairs. But in recent years, we have stepped up our international focus and made it a more strategic effort. And how could we not? Nations and peoples are growing becoming increasingly interdependent. The world's elderly may perhaps outnumber its children by mid-century. AARP absolutely must be engaged in a global dialogue about aging.

Through the AARP Global Aging Program, we facilitate and engage in international policy debates related to the aging population. There is much we can offer in sharing our experiences with other countries, and at the same time, learning from the experiences of other nations. We are here to listen and to learn, as well as to teach.

For example, an EU directive mandates that all member states implement age discrimination laws by 2006. Age discrimination has been illegal in the US since 1976, and AARP has substantial expertise in this area. So we have been providing resources and advice to these countries to help them successfully implement these new laws.

As we debate Social Security reform in the U.S., we have taken close looks at pension systems in other countries that have moved toward privatization. We have used the experiences from Chile, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Australia to inform and strengthen our position against President Bush's recommendations.

To this point, most of our cooperative work has been with Europe, Japan and other developed nations. But I hope that this conference will be the catalyst for further engagement with India. There is much that we can learn from one another by sharing experiences and best practices.

India, of course, has a rich tradition of esteem for the eldest members of society. Because that unquestioned respect is woven so deeply into the cultural fabric, there was limited need for Indians to plan for their retirement security, to diligently put away money or explore long-term care options. The assumption always was extended family would take care of its own.

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