The American Association of Retired Persons is generally known for its advocacy on behalf of its members. However, in Payson, it most recently helped educate senior citizens about the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.
Several presentations on the program were offered around the area, with the former president of Arizona's AARP Ritch Steven participating.
The voice of Rim Country seniors with AARP is Dr. Ginny Creager. She is a member of Arizona's executive council for AARP.
"Nationally, AARP has more than 35 million members," Creager said. "Arizona has 785,000 of them and has the first AARP chapter organized. It was in Youngtown."
In addition to the educational presentations on the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, Arizona's AARP members stayed very busy during the legislative session, lobbying for a number of things, Creager said.
"We had a very busy season. We were able to get $6.3 million for home- and community-based services, which help seniors stay in their homes rather than going into assisted living facilities.
"We also secured $1.5 million for Adult Protective Services to add staff. They have not added anyone since about 1999," Creager said.
"With more staff it will have the capacity to investigate 100 percent of the complaints (it receives)."
One of AARP's bigger accomplishments with the Legislature was the defeat of six different "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" (TABOR) initiatives, Creager said.
She said the group partnered with numerous organizations to achieve the successes it had with legislators during the 2006 session.
AARP has also partnered with the Arizona Attorney General to combat identity theft, prevent fraud and assist with other consumer issues facing the state's older residents.
Another highly public program of AARP in Payson is its tax preparation assistance. Creager said more than 700 individuals and families were helped with tax preparation this year.
"This service is offered at no charge and we have some really wonderful volunteers with a real aptitude for understanding the IRS rules," Creager said.
A project by AARP for the elderly on the state's many reservations has won national recognition, Creager said. It is called "Home Mod." Volunteers with backgrounds in construction, work on the reservations to help repair and upgrade the homes of elderly Native Americans, she explained.
Coming projects AARP plans include issue forums with candidates before the September primary and November general elections; as well as preparation of a voter guide and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Creager said she is arranging a series of community meetings in the Rim Country to give area seniors an opportunity to tell AARP's state leadership what issues are important.
She said there will also be meetings between state AARP representatives and local leaders.
The state organization will continue its efforts on behalf of grandparents parenting grandchildren, consumer and older worker issues.
While Payson does not have an AARP chapter, Creager said if someone or a group is interested in organizing one, or a less structured AARP interest group, she has the materials available to guide the formation. She is also available to speak to other groups and organizations about AARP.
Creager can be contacted between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and evenings at (928) 474-8936, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For additional information, call toll free, 866-389-5649, 888-687-2277 (888-OUR-AARP) or (602) 262-5180 and ask for Connie Fladeland. Information is also available online at www.aarp.org/az.