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Key Dates in AARP History

The moments that have helped define the organization through the decades

spinner image Banner reads A Living Legacy, How Ethel Percy Andrus Changed America
spinner image A group of people gathered around a table for an AARP meeting.

1958: AARP Is Born

The American Association of Retired Persons (now known as AARP) is founded on July 1 by Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal (first board meeting above). It expands the mission of the National Retired Teacher's Association (NRTA), the organization Dr. Andrus founded in 1947 to address the economic challenges and health insurance needs of retired educators. AARP is formed with the intention to: 1) enhance the quality of life for older persons, 2) promote independence, dignity and purpose for older persons, 3) lead in determining the role and place of older persons in society and 4) improve the image of aging. Membership dues are $2. 

spinner image The House of Freedom in Washington, DC

1961: Creating a House of the Future

AARP builds the House of Freedom, incorporating the principles of universal design, in Washington, D.C., to showcase options for style and safety (nonskid floors, grab bars in bathrooms) for delegates to the first White House Conference on Aging. The builder notes that its name refers to the house’s ability to provide “freedom from household drudgery, from poor lighting, from dangerously slick floors or stairways, from expensive housing expense.”

spinner image Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus standing at podium that reads "The Institute of Lifetime Learning"

1963: Dedication to Lifelong Learning

The AARP Institute of Lifelong Learning begins providing educational programs for older people in Washington, D.C., offering classes in arts, crafts, secretarial skills, speech, photography, English, international relations and more. It’s so successful that the program soon expands to Long Beach, Calif.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and beyond.

spinner image Group of people at a Dynamic Maturity display.

1964: A Presence at the World's Fair

AARP’s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair promotes the organization’s vision of Dynamic Maturity. Its entrance is dominated by a massive sundial — 20 feet in diameter, designed by sculptor Herbert Feuerlicht — in keeping with the concept of time being ageless. Dr. Andrus’ nephew, Lincoln, and others look at a model of Grey Gables.

spinner image An aerial view of the U.S. captiol

1967: Fighting Age-Based Discrimination

With strong backing from AARP, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Dec. 15. It bans age-based discrimination against people age 40 to 65, including discrimination in hiring, wages, promotions and layoffs. This is an era in America when many help-wanted ads say there’s no need to apply if you’re age 55 or older.

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spinner image Image of Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center

1973: Promoting the Study of Aging

The Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center opens at the University of Southern California, becoming the first school for gerontology a few years later in the form of Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at USC (Davis was a cofounder of AARP). Its ongoing mission: “to promote healthy aging for diverse individuals, communities and societies through leadership and innovation in research, education and practice.” 

spinner image A man teaching driver's safety in a classroom

1979: A Push for Driver Safety

AARP kicks off a new 55 Alive program to help older drivers stay independent, safe and confident while on the road. Now called Driver Safety, it’s the nation’s largest classroom/online driver-safety and driving-refresher program designed especially for drivers age 50 and older across the country.  

spinner image National Retired Teachers Association card

1982: Joining Forces

The National Retired Teacher's Association (NRTA), the organization Dr. Andrus founded in 1947 to address the needs of educators in retirement, merges with AARP on a national level. It becomes a division of AARP.

spinner image A group of people looking at a stage

1984: Expanding its Reach

The membership age for AARP drops from 55 to 50. You can join at any age, however, whether you’re retired or not. AARP's core mission today: to empower people to choose how they live as they age.

spinner image Magazine covers from Modern Maturity and AARP The Magazine

2003: The Flagship Publication Evolves

Modern Maturity, AARP’s bimonthly magazine since 1958, is renamed AARP The Magazine. Today it’s the most-read magazine in the country, with more than 38 million readers, still championing our founder’s firm belief that being older is not a disability; it's an opportunity.


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