This spring AARP named a new CEO to lead the organization. A. Barry Rand, a former Xerox executive and self proclaimed son of the 60’s, knows a thing or two about leading social change. Rand recently visited Massachusetts to meet with Bay State volunteers and staff, and to sit down and discuss aging issues with Gov. Deval Patrick. Sondra Shapiro, executive editor of The Fifty Plus Advocate also had the opportunity to chat with Rand during his quick trip to the commonwealth. Excerpts from Shapiro’s Q & A with AARP’s new CEO follow:
Q: I heard that you were a caregiver for your dad. What was your experience and what did you learn?
A: It made me realize how much I love my father—and what I didn’t know about the system. When we talk about the experience that those who are aging have in terms of how do they take care of themselves and their understanding the medical complexity of the system, it’s a nightmare.
(It’s hard) to believe the average person can understand the billing system. That has a level of complexity for anybody, much less those who are aging in a way that reduces their ability to go through and manage the process. And that’s the easy part.
The toughest part is that as you age you want to have choices—where you want to live and the lifestyle you want to live. The costs associated with our system defy the ability for most people to have those choices…
Q: How does your background benefit AARP at this time in history in terms of health care reform, financial security and other aging issues?
A: …We have a very strong organization advocating for what we believe is right for Americans. I am expected to be a persuasive, vibrant voice for AARP in all the forums that will determine what the outcomes will be in health care and eventually more discussion on financial security.
I am expected to be able to help the organization reach the levels of influencers and organize in a way that the power of our membership, which is 41 million strong, will be felt. We believe we have a voice and a position that offers a version of health care that is supportive of all Americans having access to health care.
Q: Could you talk about why it is important for people to get involved with issues?
A: The president has signed the national service act, which is really about America’s roots of self determination. It’s about determining what your future can be, what kind of contribution you can make.
And what needs to be the focus now is getting health care reform done. Getting more people to have access to health care. So we tell everyone that it is in their interest to get involved in this issue. To stay abreast of this issue, to make their voices heard. The individual can do something to help America.
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To read the rest of Shapiro’s interview with A. Barry Rand check out the June 2009 issue of The Fifty Plus Advocate.