What Is AARP?

AARP is America's leading organization for people age fifty and older, providing member benefits, marketing services, and lobbying on their behalf. Founded in 1958 by retired educator Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus as the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association with a membership of over 40 million.

AARP provides information, education, research, advocacy, and community services through a nationwide network of local chapters and experienced volunteers. It focuses its work on consumer issues, economic security, work, health, and independent living issues, and engages in legislative, judicial, and consumer advocacy in these areas.

How AARP Works

AARP is considered a powerful lobbying group as well as a successful business, selling life and health insurance, investment products, and other financial and non-financial services. It is also an independent publisher, offering Modern Maturity magazine and the monthly AARP Bulletin. AARP produced $1.65 billion in revenue in 2018, which came from a variety of endeavors, including advertising revenue from its publications, and from royalties for licensing its name and logo.

However, membership fees represent the most significant source of revenue. It is registered as a 501(c)(4) non-profit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which means it is permitted to engage in lobbying. It also administers some 501(c)(3) public charity operations while some of its other operations are for-profit.

AARP Affiliates

There are several AARP-affiliated organizations, and they include the following:

  • The AARP Foundation is a non-profit charity that assists people over age 50 who may be at economic and social risk. Within the foundation operates AARP Experience Corps., which encourages tutoring and mentoring of children, and AARP Institute, which holds its gift annuity funds.
  • AARP Services develop and manage new products and services and are for-profit.
  • Legal Counsel for the Elderly is a non-profit that provides legal services for seniors in Washington, D.C.
  • AARP Financial Services hold AARP real estate and is for-profit.
  • The AARP Insurance Plan administers some AARP group insurance plans.

AARP also has many other initiatives, including promoting driver safety (AARP Diver Safety), producing television programming that targets seniors, and engaging in sponsorships that support social causes, such as raising awareness of and fighting hunger in America.

AARP manages outreach programs that address housing issues and social isolation among seniors. AARP has also initiated and managed programs that advocate for the strengthening of Social Security and Medicare.

Criticism of the AARP

AARP is one of the strongest lobbying groups in America, and because of its efforts, it often receives attention for exerting its influence in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals. Its non-profit operations also receive millions of dollars per year in the form of federal grants. Some argue that its positions fall into the more liberal part of the political spectrum.