Few things get me revved up like learning about a woman I know nothing about and whose life deserves celebrating. I felt that way the first time I heard stories about Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, AARP’s founder and now one of my personal heroes. She was all the things I admire — fiercely intelligent, creative, a barrier buster and a trailblazer. Sixty years ago, when she was in her 70s, as I am now, she created AARP. And all Americans over 50 have been benefiting from her vision since.
At the core of Dr. Andrus’ beliefs was the conviction that we need to make this a wonderful country to grow old in. I couldn’t agree more. So she plays a part in every speech I give and in an impressive number of my conversations. I want everyone to know and love her as I do.
That’s why I am so excited to tell you about two new books — one devoted to the life story of Dr. Andrus, Ethel Percy Andrus: One Woman Who Changed America, and another for young readers, She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think (Disney-Hyperion/AARP), with a chapter on our visionary founder. These volumes tell tales of women who personify courage, fortitude, valor, virtue — the range of characteristics that define heroism.
Not all these women will be familiar to readers, young or old. So AARP wants to shine a light on their lives and inspire new generations to live their best lives.
These books illustrate the long history of AARP’s dedication to improving women’s lives. Women tend to have greater longevity than men and are more likely to live alone. They have less in retirement savings and receive less in Social Security benefits. They are more likely to be caregivers for loved ones and more likely to need care and support themselves when they age.
AARP addressed the financial, social and emotional needs of midlife and older women in the 1980s, when we created a far-reaching Women’s Initiative. It focused on everything from how to write a check to career development, long-term care and family caregiving. We fought for the Family and Medical Leave Act, pension equity, and fairness for women applying for credit. In recent years, we’ve waged legal battles against elder abuse — a greater risk for women than men. I’m convinced that Dr. Andrus would be proud to have inspired our efforts to make sure today’s women are living better lives.