These are anything but ordinary times. The coronavirus pandemic threatens the health of millions around the world and is upending how we work, how our children learn, and what we do to stay connected with friends and family, relax, and have fun. In this rapidly changing environment, I can tell you with certainty one thing that will not change. As we have for more than sixty years, AARP will continue to promote the health and well-being of older Americans.
AARP’s social mission is vitally important right now since our constituency of older adults are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and those with underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are more likely to develop serious outcomes than younger, healthier Americans.
Here are some of the things that AARP is doing to provide our members, other older Americans, and the friends and family members who care for them with the information and resources they need to protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread, and mitigate its potentially devastating financial impact.
First, we are helping educate the 50+ in a variety of ways, leveraging the knowledge of federal, state and other experts.
- AARP.org/coronavirus web page: We have created a dedicated page on aarp.org to house comprehensive information based on expert sources all in one place. Current content includes an article explaining what “social distancing” is and why it’s important, as described by an official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC); a Q&A with CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonier about the greater risk to older adults; and a description of COVID-19 symptoms seen in the patients of a physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Visitors to the site can also get the latest updates on federal legislative activity related to coronavirus. A Spanish language version of the site is available at in Spanish at www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus
- Tele-town Halls: AARP is hosting weekly, national tele-town halls that connect older Americans and those caring for them with federal government officials to learn more about the coronavirus, how to protect themselves and their loved ones and help prevent or slow down its spread. The first event, held on March 10, featured Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Nancy Messonier, M.D., from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) who talked about the virus, prevention measures and answered questions. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma also joined the call, responding to questions about beneficiary costs, coverage and policies related to tele-health services. The full audio and transcript are posted to www.aarp.org/coronavirus, and we are compiling an FAQ based on the more than 900 questions that participants sent in. Another national tele-town hall is scheduled for Thursday, March 19 at 1pm ET. Speakers scheduled to participate include Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director of the CDC’s infectious disease unit, Lance Robertson, HHS assistant secretary for aging and administration of the agency’s Administration for Community Living, and Daniel Kaufman, deputy director of Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection who will talk about avoiding coronavirus scams.
And, AARP state teams are organizing tele-town halls featuring state government and public health officials. As of March 17, six state events have been conducted – Washington, Montana, Rhode Island, Idaho, Utah, Utah and Vermont, and at least another nine, including West Virginia, California, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, South Dakota, and Iowa are scheduled between March 18 and the end of the month.
Second, we are advocating at both the federal and state level for the policies, tools, and resources that individuals, families, and health care providers need to take care of those who are sick, keep people healthy, and help the most vulnerable. Earlier this month, AARP strongly supported the bipartisan Congressional agreement signed into law by President Trump that, among other provisions, provided robust funding to combat the coronavirus, greater access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, and protections to ensure access to any vaccines or treatments. We will continue to advocate that any vaccine or treatment for this virus be affordable and accessible to all.
On March 19, the Senate passed a package that cleared the U.S. House and will now go to the President to be signed into law. This legislation aims to provide financial relief to individuals who are (or will be) hard hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic. This includes provisions for paid family and sick leave, increased food assistance, expanded unemployment benefits, and an expansion of no-cost testing.
In addition, as Congress and the Administration consider additional legislative action, AARP is urging action on policies to support older Americans as they face the health and economic challenges from the coronavirus. This includes investments in nursing home care, financial assistance, protecting retirement income, expanding access to health care, including in homes and communities, strengthening food assistance programs and lowering prescription drug prices.
In the states, a number of AARP staff and volunteers are serving on local or state-level COVID-19 task forces or advisory committees. And, across the country, we will continue to advocate for the needs of older adults in their states and communities.
And third, we are doing our part to “flatten the curve” and not spread the virus by pausing our operations that involve in-person gatherings with groups of people. We have suspended popular activities like our Movies for Grownups film screenings, our in-person Driver Safety and “Careversations” workshops, and the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, among others. To fill the gap, we are focused on delivering high-quality, engaging online offerings like the weekly real-time coronavirus information tele-town halls as well as a full calendar of virtual events on topics like understanding Medicare and Social Security, protecting yourself and your loved ones from fraud, and online training to keep your driving skills sharp.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll write more about how AARP is responding to this health crisis as we continue to support and inform our constituency and their loved ones. In the meantime, here are some useful links:
For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
For information on coronavirus-related scams, visit www.ftc.gov/coronavirus.
For AARP's coronavirus resources, visit www.aarp.org/coronavirus (English) and www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus (Spanish).