Through our Money Management and Tax-Aide Programs, volunteers help older people pay their bills and stay financially independent. The NRTA, AARP's Educator Community, is involved in tutoring and mentoring schoolchildren. And volunteers help low-income job-seekers prepare resumes and polish their interview skills under AARP's Senior Community Service Employment Program.
In addition to our corps of volunteers, we have a base of over a million activists who mobilize to lobby government at the state and national level to protect their rights to a decent pension, affordable health care and protection as consumers against predatory business practices.
It takes more than good intentions alone for community service to work. There's a saying often used in the United States, urging people to practice "random acts of kindness." At AARP, we like to think that we practice "organized acts of kindness", which are even better. Our efforts are cohesive and efficient. Our volunteers are well-trained and assigned to tasks that fit their skills.
A prominent American children's advocate, Marian Wright Edelman calls service "the rent we pay to be living." And in the U.S., many, many people are willing to pay that rent. Research shows that those who aren't volunteering would do so if someone simply asked them to. And there's also convincing empirical evidence that, in addition to its social benefits, service is actually good for the volunteers themselves. Older adults who are engaged in service activities actually are happier, healthier and live longer.
Volunteering may denote something different slightly from culture to culture, but there's every reason to believe that AARP's success with community service can be transferred to aging organizations in other countries. We're pleased that NGOs and other governments have sought to replicate the AARP volunteering model.
Let me close by reemphasizing both the challenges and the opportunities of a graying planet. Aging populations will affect every aspect of our public lives in the 21st century - our economies, our health care systems, infrastructure, housing, transportation, natural resources and so on.
Much has been made of the perils. But let's not forget that global aging is in part the result of great triumphs of human compassion and innovation. Thanks to improved health care, nutrition and living standards life expectancy has soared in virtually every corner of the globe.
Without diminishing or ignoring the work that needs to be done to accommodate aging societies, we must see this as an opportunity rather than a crisis. There's every reason to be optimistic. Let's embrace what's been called the "longevity bonus." Let's celebrate the wisdom that aging societies will accumulate. Let's imagine the production and consumer power of 1 billion human beings over the age of 50.
Turning this challenge into an opportunity will require unprecedented transnational exchange. We're all at different points on the aging curve, approaching these issues from slightly different perspectives. But that's all the more reason for dialogue and cooperation. As India becomes the world's most populous nation in the coming decades, AARP looks forward to building that dialogue with you. Thank you very much.