This blog is a guest post from my Summer 2019 intern, Judith Gertzog.
When you’re a college student like me, you quickly find that education isn’t confined to the classroom. During my summer internship at AARP, I learned something new every day – about AARP’s history, the issues that we fight for, and much more. In fact, I’ve been surprised by how much there is to discover about this organization, our constituency of Americans age 50 and up, and the nitty-gritty of how we do what we do.
Some of these may surprise you too. Did you know that…
- Americans age 50 and older made up more than half of the electorate in the 2016 and 2018 election cycles. And, looking ahead, Pew Research Center estimates that in 2020 nearly a quarter of the electorate will be 65 and over. Having experienced election season on a college campus, I primarily witnessed the push to get students and younger voters to the polls. However, my time at AARP has made me think about the importance of the older voter. Everyone’s voice is important in an election, but older voters really do hold significant sway. AARP urges all candidates to pay attention to older voters and the issues important to them.
- Nearly one-third of rural Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet. A high-speed internet connection can help older adults get access to health care services, jobs, and educational opportunities and stay in touch with friends and family. AARP is working across the country to close this digital divide. For example, AARP Georgia supported a bill that will help close the broadband deployment gap in rural parts of their state. This is just one example of AARP’s successful advocacy on this issue, and there’s more to come.
- AARP has more than 60,000 volunteers nationwide. Their efforts are essential to advancing AARP’s mission. For example, AARP volunteers help low-income older adults file taxes through our Tax-Aide program, and they teach older adults how to stay safe on the road in our Driver Safety program. There’s even a whole department, the Office of Volunteer Engagement, which supports these volunteers with tools, tips, and trainings. Check out AARP and other volunteer opportunities near you.
- AARP The Magazine is the most widely circulated publicaton in the United States. It is the most-read print magazine with an estimated 38.3 million readers. I was dubious… until I actually saw someone reading it on the DC metro (and it was not an AARP employee!).
- Women hold many leadership roles throughout the enterprise, including the majority of senior executive positions. Jo Ann Jenkins is our Chief Executive Officer, and five out of the other nine members of AARP’s “Executive Team” are women, including my boss, Nancy LeaMond, who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer. As a young woman thinking about post-graduate opportunities and career paths, I am lucky to work at a place where there are so many successful women to look up to.
- There is no age requirement for an AARP membership. People under the age of 50 can have an associate membership with AARP. You may wonder why you would join before you turn 50, but there are actually great membership benefits for a college student. Who doesn’t like discounts on flights and hotels? Interested Millennials and Gen Z-ers can sign up for a membership here.
- Innovation is more than a buzz word. Our leadership is truly committed to thinking differently and, in turn, they challenge their employees to find new answers to old problems. Creative thinking underpins each idea and powers each decision. The push to be innovative is something I hope to take with me when I leave AARP at the end of the summer.
As I finish out my summer at AARP and head back to the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), I will make it a personal challenge to keep learning something new each day – inside and outside the classroom.
Judith Gertzog is a rising senior at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor studying Political Science. She is interested in social justice issues and hopes to pursue a career in advocacy.