En español | If Geneva Conway's got her pearls on, watch out. The 86-year-old, known as much for her elegant outfits as her fierce advocacy, does not consider challenging lawmakers a casual occasion.
"Jeans symbolize playtime — and I am not there to play."
Wearing a red AARP T-shirt with her trademark pearls, Conway is a familiar figure among New York state legislators in Albany. As AARP's go-to representative for the state's 2.3 million members, Conway has experienced most of the issues for which she passionately advocates.
She was her husband's caregiver for years. She spent her career as a nutrition manager in hospitals, so she cares deeply about health care reform. And as someone actively involved in her community, she knows real lives are affected by higher prescription costs and rising utility rates.
No job is too small for the 2007 Andrus Award winner and 2012 AARP New York legislative advocate of the year: assembling mailings, filing and, when called upon, speaking publicly on issues that matter to older adults.
She credits her family for her work ethic. A sharecropper's daughter and the eldest of nine children, Conway migrated north with her family to Albany County from Alabama in the 1940s. “My father worked at least two jobs to care for us."
Service to others has always been integral to who Conway is. (She also volunteers at her church, the district attorney's office and Make-A-Wish Northeast New York.)
AARP gave her a platform to talk to legislators directly, to do her good works for the benefit of the whole state.
"My faith teaches me that I am my brother's keeper, and that it's required of me to do something for somebody other than myself."