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AARP Maine and our Founder

AARP Maine: A Mission, A Legacy, An Opportunity

AARP consistently strives to be there for the 50+ just as we have since our inception more than 50 years ago.  What you may not know is that AARP was founded by a retired school teacher, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus.  

See Also: Biography of Our Founder

In addition to being a school teacher, Andrus was the first female high school principal in the state of California.  She saw firsthand the economic plight of retired educators in the post-Depression era. Since Medicare did not become available until 1965, and pensions were meager, many retired teachers at the time found themselves living in poverty during their so-called “golden years.”

Upon discovering that one of her retired colleagues was so poor she was actually living in a chicken coop, Dr. Andrus took action. Armed with the belief that everyone has the right to age with dignity, she began a campaign to provide affordable medical insurance for retired educators.  Several years later, the first-ever group health insurance coverage was offered to retired teachers nationwide.  Finally, in 1958, at the age of 73, Andrus founded AARP.

Dr. Andrus saw AARP as much more than a gateway to health insurance for older Americans.  She believed that people’s older years should be an opportunity for new growth and participation in society.  She referred to AARP as “an army of useful citizens” who had the ability, the experience and the desire to promote and enhance the public good. She gave us the motto that still guides us today: “To serve, not to be served.”  

Here in Maine, AARP staff and volunteers are at the state house in Augusta almost every day, working to represent the 50+ in Maine on issues of concern to them.  We also work with communities to enhance the lives of Mainers 50+ through information, volunteerism and service.  

Nationally, AARP is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare and we consistently work with policy makers on both sides of the political aisle.  Our members watched all summer long in 2011 as their vital benefits were debated on Capitol Hill.  Few would have believed it possible for these programs to emerge intact, but thanks in great part to the voices of AARP members, that is exactly what happened.  

In 2012, we are conducting listening sessions in communities throughout Maine to hear your opinions and ideas on how to protect Social Security and Medicare. We encourage you to participate in You’ve Earned a Say and make your voice heard. Your opinion counts. Go to for more information and to complete our questionnaire.

AARP was founded by one woman who was determined to make a difference in the lives of others. Dr. Andrus wrote in one of AARP’s earliest publications, “Our community is the place where we as older individuals can be the most effective.” Today, AARP continues to champion that philosophy.

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