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. It 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.
Breaking Down AARP
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 produces roughly $1.5 billion in revenue annually from a variety of endeavors, including advertising revenue from its publications, and from royalties for licensing its name and logo, membership fees—its most significant source of revenue by far. 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. Some of its operations are also for-profit.
There are several AARP-affiliated organizations. They include:
- AARP Foundation: 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: develops and manages new products and services; is for-profit.
- Legal Counsel for the Elderly: non-profit that provides legal services for seniors in Washington, D.C.
- AARP Financial Services: holds AARP real estate; for-profit.
- AARP Insurance Plan: administers some AARP group insurance plans.
AARP also has initiatives that promote driver safety (AARP Diver Safety), it produces television programming that targets seniors, engages in sponsorships that support social causes, such as raising awareness of and fighting hunger in America, and 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.
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.