People know about AARP mostly from its TV commercials, selling life and health insurance and encouraging people to become members.
But the group is much more than that, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands it is both a powerful advocate for older citizens and a source of information about health care and retirement planning, according to the organization’s senior state director, Denyce Singleton.
Founded in 1958 as the American Association of Retired People, the nonprofit group has become one of the strongest lobbying groups in the United States. In 1999 it dropped the retirement emphasis and changed its name to the initials, AARP.
And that’s the role the group plays in the territory as well, Singleton told the Rotary Club of St. Croix, where she was Thursday’s guest speaker.
"We provide information, education, and we’re probably the biggest watchdog in the territory, and I know how to bark," she said.
Singleton said the group works with government on a variety of issues, everything from Public Works (the new, lighted bus shanties) to health care and taxes. It has about 20,000 members in the territory, which gives it more than a little clout, she said.
The AARP director passed out a fact sheet for the club members showing how the new health care act can affect the tax returns of businesses large and small, along with nonprofit groups and individuals.
She also passed out results of a survey, released last week, that shows only one in five Virgin Islanders believes he or she has the resources necessary to stay healthy and mentally sharp in retirement.
About two-thirds of those islanders surveyed said they take at least one prescription drug, but of those, 60 percent said they can’t afford the medication.