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Champions of Aging

Here are 10 Americans who helped to build a nation that respects and protects its oldest citizens

Our Hall of Fame

They came from divergent backgrounds but shared a common cause: fighting for the interests, rights, financial security and overall well-being of older Americans. Learn more about these movers and shakers in this virtual hall of fame.

Ethel Percy Andrus

The founder of AARP was an educator who never stopped teaching.

Date unknown: AARP

Robert M. Ball

The lifelong civil servant oversaw the creation of the Medicare system in the mid-1960s, which may have been the largest government undertaking since D-Day.

1965: Pictured upper right. Courtesy of the Social Security Administration

Warren W. Blaney

Many compete in the Senior Olympics, but few can name the movement’s founder.

1975: Pictured at far right. Courtesy of Worth Blaney

Robert N. Butler

Butler was raised by his grandparents, became a doctor and fought prejudice and discrimination against older Americans.

c. 2004: Courtesy of the International Longevity Center USA

Elma Holder

Are nursing homes "over-regulated?" she asked rhetorically. "Well, are the schools in your town over-regulated?"

c. 2006: Jim Harrison/The Heinz Awards

Lyndon B. Johnson

The son of a failed cotton farmer engineered the passage of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act.

1967: With Thurgood Marshall. Keystone/Getty Images. First slide: Ed Clark/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Maggie Kuhn

The Gray Panthers founder weighed only 95 pounds but packed a big punch as a crusading activist.

c. 1972 Alain Keler/Sygma/Corbis

Patrick V. McNamara

As a senator, the one-time pipefitter helped lead the charge for Medicare.

1957: Ed Clark/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Claude Pepper

Mr. Senior Citizen’s concern for those in need may have grown out of his own early struggles.

1988: Shepard Sherbell/Saba/Corbis

Edwin E. Witte

Witte, raised in hardscrabble Wisconsin, invented Social Security, the program that millions of retirees depend on.

Date unknown: Wisconsin Historical Society

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Video Extra

FOUNDING INSPIRATION: AARP President Rob Romasco discusses AARP founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, sharing how and why she formed AARP.