Bernie Nash has had careers within careers: rear admiral in the U.S. Naval Reserve, parole officer, U.S. government official and activist for the aging. For AARP, Nash might best be known for his six years as executive director.
Widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of aging, Nash served AARP for 32 years, served as a consultant for the White House Conference on Aging three times and helped create the Foster Grandparent Program for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. The program engaged people 55 and older to serve as “grandparents” who would provide emotional support to child victims of abuse and tutor, mentor and care for children with disabilities. His vision, service and countless contributions have helped older adults age with independence, dignity and purpose.
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
Nash celebrated his 100th birthday over the weekend in Illinois with friends and family. AARP is honoring him with an internship program in his name, designed to build upon his lifelong legacy by identifying and training people who have a passion for public service and empower people to choose how they live as they age.
“Bernie personified AARP founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus’ mandate, ‘To serve; not be served,’ ” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in a proclamation announcing the internship. “Throughout his career, he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of older people, both by providing services they need and by helping them find purpose and meaning in their lives by serving others.”
An early advocate for older adults
Nash’s service to older Americans dates back to the 1950s. From 1957 to 1962, he served as the executive secretary to the Minnesota Governor's Council on Aging. He was deputy commissioner of the office on aging for the then-U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1965 to 1969, when he joined AARP.
Nash attended the first White House Conference on Aging in 1961, and he opened the conference in 2015. “The future is with us in this room, and we are going to be a strategic part of it. … We can provide opportunities for the seniors who are yet to come: our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he told attendees.