AARP: Welcome to today's chat! We have with us today Rob Romasco, AARP’s president and chief volunteer. We're going to begin right away with the first question.
Comment From Doris: What do your friends say about your new role at AARP? Do you get a lot of people with ideas or things they want you to do for them as their representative at AARP?
Rob Romasco: Some are very surprised that I amounted to something! But seriously, they are very excited that someone they know is associated with an organization they respect.
The most common comment I get on the road is, "Keep fighting for us!"
They are concerned about Medicare and Social Security for themselves, and for their children. They expect AARP to be a leader in finding responsible solutions to both protect and strengthen these vital programs.
Comment From JD: I feel like young and old could both benefit from volunteering alongside each other. What kinds of efforts do you make to bring them together?
Rob Romasco: One of the signature programs we've built is Create the Good. This is in recognition of the fact that people want to give back to their communities. There is a website that people can go to find local opportunities: www.createthegood.org.
Comment From Walter Snyder: I am an AARP member who works for a small nonprofit agency in central New York. How can I get the word out to the AARP membership concerning the volunteer opportunity to work with a child or adult, who has a developmental disability, in a one-on-one advocacy/mentoring relationship? There are many people living in our communities who are at a high risk for loneliness, and in great need of a friend. Thanks very much.
Rob Romasco: What wonderful work you do; thank you! Our Create the Good program has been built for something like this. You can visit www.createthegood.org/post-opportunity. Once you post this opportunity, you'll be in our searchable database. Every month we have approximately 1 million people who visit this site looking for local opportunities.
Comment From Bob G: Can you tell me what is the biggest challenge you face in your role as president?
Rob Romasco: It's the challenge and responsibility of making sure that I, and AARP, listen to the members. No matter what part of the opinion landscape they come from, we need to truly listen.
We need to take seriously all opinions that help inform the policies we develop and advocate, the products and services we bring to our members, and the depth and breadth of the information. It starts with active listening, helpful conversations and understanding.
We want to help our members and their families meet the challenges and opportunities in their everyday lives.
Next: What are you doing to make AARP more relevant to today's "55 is the new 45" group? »
Comment From Ron C: Today's 55-year-olds act and feel nothing like their parents did at their age. What are you doing to make AARP more relevant to today's "55 is the new 45" group, who may feel AARP is skewed toward a much older-feeling demographic?
Rob Romasco: That’s a great question! We’re not focusing as much on age, but on stage of life. For each member, it’s a question of where are you on your life journey and how can we help you navigate?
There’s no question that society is changing in many different respects, and today’s 55-year-old is facing a host of new challenges and opportunities never before seen. We are active on this issue on a number of fronts. We are very active in developing both resources and tools to help our members. For instance, in the workplace, providing tools and information to help with your job search. Also, emphasizing the need for 21st-century retirement planning.
And, of course, advocating for policies that both protect and strengthen their ability to succeed. Be it fighting workplace discrimination, advocating for fairer insurance protection, or endorsing products that are specifically designed to meet their needs at this stage of life, as well as meet their dreams and aspirations. Be it discount on travel or everyday discounts. Every aspect of their life, we’re trying to make it better.
Comment From Cheryl Lynn Catoe: Can volunteer work lead to a career?
Rob Romasco: Absolutely! One of the new strategies that has developed in this economy is to volunteer in order to raise your profile and learn what the organization in the field is about.
In some respects, it’s an unpaid tryout. There is no guarantee, but it’s certainly a good way to learn about an organization and field. Not only do you find out about yourself, but the organization, and really to find out if it’s something you would like to do.
Comment From Margarette: What skills does AARP want in its volunteers?
Rob Romasco: First and foremost, passion in the topic! A positive attitude about doing something for others. And a willingness to be part of a team.
Each of us has a rich set of life experiences and skills. And we've had no trouble engaging people and finding the right spot for them ... writing, public speaking, advocacy, bringing consumer information to people or simply lending an understanding ear.
We have volunteers who are active by simply communicating to public officials, others who have traveled across their states, those that work in our offices to offer reception work. There are no shortages of opportunities to help fulfill the mission of our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, to help people live life with dignity and purpose.
Comment From Dave: Does AARP offer or suggest any resources for age 50-plus people who may be entering early retirement, in terms of how one should approach this phase (to include the possibility of volunteer work). Along these lines, are there any support groups or social networks for this group of people?
Rob Romasco: We offer great information on retirement planning for all ages on our website, www.aarp.org. You'll find topics such as retirement planning, social security and also great information of the best places to retire and how to live on budget.
Broadly speaking, you'll find how to pay for it, but how do you want to spend it? New career, following a passion or volunteering? AARP information and resources are there to help you on every dimension. One of our best-kept secrets is our online community groups. Whatever your passion or question, it's likely you'll find other members: www.aarp.org/online-community.
Next: What do you think of an AARP reality show? »
Comment From AARP Twitter team: One of our Twitter peeps says we should have an AARP reality show! What do you think of that? Any reality shows you're addicted to?
Rob Romasco: Since I live in the Washington, D.C., area, I certainly could use a dose of reality!
The only reality show I'm addicted to is traveling across the country and meeting our members. Real people with real lives, real concerns and real hopes. That's plenty for me!
Comment From Fillmore Bowen: How is the YEaS initiative going?
Rob Romasco: The initiative, You've Earned a Say, is an ongoing conversation with members, to bring out from behind closed doors the challenges our country faces to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare. Launched in March, we've gone across America to our members and asked their opinions. So far over a half million people have responded online, by phone or through community meetings.
Soon, we'll go to the next phase, where AARP will bring a variety of suggested options to address these vital programs.These will include the pros and cons of each option from expert comments across the spectrum of opinion.
The core premise of this is that we respect our members’ ability to be thoughtful and, given fair and reliable information, to voice their opinions about these vital progams that they've paid into and earned over their lifetimes. We will bring the results of this ongoing conversation to the policy makers here in Washington. We are committed to making sure your voice is heard.
Comment From Jenn B: What's the No. 1 question you get regarding AARP when you're talking with your friends or you're out in the community?
Rob Romasco: I get a concern and a question. It's basically the same issue. Are the people in Washington listening to us? Do they have a clue what I’m going through? Are they connected to my everyday life? It comes in all shapes and sizes, but that's the theme I hear most often.
Comment From Wanda: I just responded to a post in my online class about how to recruit and retain baby boomer volunteers. What are your ideas?
Rob Romasco: The first challenge we all have is to recognize how baby boomers’ lives are different. Twenty-first century life demands time, and structures need to meet peoples’ needs for flexibility and episodic involvement.
The good news is we have tools online that allow us to get information and participate as never before. You're doing it right now with this chat!
Next: What is the major challenge to our current Medicare system? »
Comment From Ron P: What is the major challenge to our current Medicare system?
Rob Romasco: Medicare is one of our great challenges. Medicare provides an extraordinary value to all of us as we age. The financial challenge is not Medicare, but the underlying overall cost of our health care system. Engaging that will be part of our next phase of our You've Earned a Say conversation. We'll bring policy options and get your thoughts on how to solve this problem.
AARP: We are going to wrap it up for today! We would like to thank you for joining us today. And a big thank you to Mr. Romasco!
Rob Romasco: Thanks for all your great questions! I look forward to continuing the conversation in the future.
AARP: We had many questions today that we did not get to answer. Please refer to AARP.org for further information. Thank you kindly!