AARP New Mexico named Dolores Halls as its 2009 Andrus Award winner. The annual Andrus Award is named for Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus who founded AARP in 1958. The award honors those who exemplify her spirit of giving back to others. It is bestowed on outstanding AARP volunteers who make a powerful difference in their communities, in ways that support AARP’s vision of community service and that inspire others to volunteer.
Halls started volunteering with AARP after years of teaching about gerontology, thinking that working with the advocacy organization would help her be a better teacher in her field. She had come to New Mexico State University in the late 70s.
“My interest in gerontology surfaced rather prematurely,” Halls said. “Not many people were thinking about the aging population at that time.”
In fact, at the time, NMSU didn’t really have a course in gerontology and her graduate advisor pieced courses from other colleges together for Halls so she could earn her master’s degree.
In 1982, NMSU received a grant from the National Agency on Aging establishing the only certificate program in gerontology at the university level in New Mexico at that time. The grant established a 10-year program called the Institute for Gerontological Research and Education, which allowed Halls to travel around the state teaching courses on such things as caregiving. Once the grant expired, it was time for her to retire.
But she didn’t give up her desire to work on behalf of the 50-plus population. Halls embarked on a role as an advocate for residents of nursing homes and senior citizens throughout the state.
She has served as a key lead volunteer with AARP, focusing on health and long-term care issues. She has long been an advocate for health care reform, aging programs and community-based long-term care services.
Halls carries these messages and concerns to southern New Mexico legislators and elected officials in her role as an AARP volunteer, and as a representative of the Las Cruces Retired Educator Unit and the American Association of University Women.
She has organized and assisted with AARP exhibits at the State Senior Olympics and community gatherings. Halls continues to serve as an active member of the local Alzheimer’s Association, assisting with the annual Alzheimer’s walk. Dolores has also served on Planning and Zoning Committee and other committees for the City of Las Cruces.
“It is hard to keep up with Dolores,” said Louis Sarabia, AARP New Mexico State President, who also resides in Las Cruces. “She was ahead of her time looking at aging issues and the impact on people, and she still helps people 50 plus by getting them the latest information on those issues and advocating on a number of issues before our elected officials.”
“Dolores is still a very strong advocate for people 50 plus and we hope that she continues this important work for many years, continuing to be an example on how you can improve the lives of others. AARP appreciates all that she has done and thanks her for her many years of service,” Sarabia said.