AARP helps, also needs help

Are you a member of AARP? Do you pull out your membership card when you eat out in a restaurant and ask if they honor AARP discounts?
Aug 31, 2014
(Bonnie Bucy • Lebanon Democrat) AARP national and state volunteer Ruth Wharton shows off the African violet that won first place at the recent Wilson County Fair.


Are you a member of AARP? Do you pull out your membership card when you eat out in a restaurant and ask if they honor AARP discounts?

Do you ask that question when you make hotel or motel reservations? How about airline, bus or train reservations? How about signing up for cellphone service?

There are thousands of discounts available for senior citizens out there that go unnoticed. For those who were as vigorous about discounts as coupon clippers got about rounding up and clipping coupons, there’s no telling how much could be saved in the long run.

In reviewing the history of AARP, apparent how it’s grown in 56 years to the largest nonprofit, nonpolitical organization representing people in the last half century of their lives.

Born in 1884 and a graduate of the Lewis Institute, Ethel Percy Andrus founded the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947 and then in 1958 founded AARP or formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, a nonprofit that serves as an advocate and nonpartisan organization for older people. Anyone who is 50 and older can join.

AARP has fought to get and preserve the rights and needs of older citizens. However, it’s finding the numbers of those senior citizens is increasing faster than even it was aware and feel the government is even less aware of the needs and plights of these people. So, while AARP is fighting to save money by cutting increased government spending in other areas while the older citizens’ needs are not always addressed. AARP needs to expand in areas to generate more money to help them fight Washington’s extravagant spending.

In her speech last month at the 20-year celebration of Lebanon’s chapter of AARP, Ruth Wharton, a volunteer to the national and state chapters of AARP, said, “We are not at the top of the totem pole in political and government programs. They’re going to wake up one day and discover how many of us there really are. Ramps are nowhere near up to the needs of the aged. Gallatin Road is a perfect example of how many people are scrambling to get across that street. They may need to do an audit or research program in Wilson County on how many streets here are in need of redefinement.”

She went on talking about the need to make sure our Social Security is protected because “our retirement is a blessing that we’ve earned.” She went on to tell about the “Fall Free Tennessee” program coming out in September that will make places safe for the elderly, as well as for children.

“AARP needs to be partnering with other groups to help raise money to handle these other needed programs,” she said. “I’m looking for ways to help raise more money, so am open to any ideas other people have and are willing to get going. We have a special weekend a month going at the Nashville Farmers Market and I’m looking to get one started at the Wilson County Farmers Market and want to hear from other citizens in regards to that program and any other ideas they have.” 

AARP sent out a plea earlier this year that contained the following in addition to petitions to be signed and sent to Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Diane Black. Its plea included the following:

“Social Security: Too many of our elected officials mistakenly view cutting Social Security benefits as a solution to the federal deficit – instead of addressing the problems in the rest of the government budget, such as trimming tax loopholes or wasteful forms of spending. Most recently, Congress considered cutting your cost-of-living adjustments, which would have taken thousands of dollars out of your pocket in the next 10 years alone.

“Medicare: This essential program also faces potential cuts in the ongoing debate around the deficit. Current proposals include having seniors pay higher premiums and co-payments – meaning higher out-of-pocket expenses – for health care services.

“Retirement Security: A whole host of other challenges threaten the retirement security of America’s seniors...the decline of scams...the increasing cost of living, especially for health care...the list goes on and on.

“AARP is taking a stand on each of these issues. Our staff is working hard and pulling out all the stops to protect you and other members from these threats.”

The petitions include the plea, “Social Security is the largest source of income for most older Americans, while Medicare has kept basic health care both available and affordable. Many seniors already live near or below the poverty line and rely on these essential programs. As you consider how to address our nation’s financial challenges, I urge you not to make harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits to pay for other government spending. Remember, these benefits are not handouts...older Americans have spent a lifetime working for them. Your goal should be to protect and strengthen these programs to ensure they are stable and adequate for generations to come.”

AARP asks members to sign the petitions and send an additional donation to help them in their fights. Wharton agrees someone powerful is needed to fight for older residents in Washington, and this is one way to do it.

AARP makes it possible to get discounts on so many things. Besides offering health, life and car insurance at discounted prices, under the heading of shopping, AARP members can get discounts on apparel, flowers and gifts, items for the home, automotive, coupons and groceries, health and wellness items and living/social deals like cellphones.

They are available on fine and casual dining and restaurant certificates. Under electronics, they can be applied to services and products. Travel discounts are good on cars and trucks, hotels and resorts, air and rail, cruises and tours and tips and tools. In entertainment, there are discounts offered on movies, concerts and shows and national parks and attractions.

On a local level through Sept. 15, you can get deeply discounted tickets to Dollywood for $38 for adults and $33 per child. 

Nashville Symphony, Coffee and Classics Series has discounted tickets for the 2014-15 season and can be purchased via telephone at 615-687-6400 providing promo code “YOURSYMPHONY” or online at _classics, using promo code “YOURSYMPHONY.” AARP members and guests may purchase tickets for this series package, which includes all four concert dates for $119, a $5 discount off the regular price of $124.

Tennessee Central Railway Museum and Train Rides in Nashville has discounted tickets for three excursions plus a designated AARP car. For tickets, send an email to with “AARP Train Tickets” in the subject line. Indicate the trip date. Or, call 615-244-9001 and leave your name, phone number, mailing address and trip date. Mention AARP. At least two things are coming up, including its Fall Foliage Tour on Oct. 25 where you save $10 by paying $50 and the North Pole Express on Dec. 6 when your $26 ticket saves you $6 on regular seating.

Between Feb. 1 and April 15, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide kicks into high gear. Not only can older citizens get their taxes done for free, the foundation is looking for volunteers to be trained as tax accountants to act as greeters, technology coordinators, a communications coordinator, a leadership or administrative volunteer or a bilingual speaker or translator. Visit for more information.

Almost four out of five people who turn to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide are 60 or older. Household incomes aren’t high. For many of them, a tax refund could mean they won’t have to choose between paying for groceries and keeping the lights on.  

In Columbia, a realtor named Jan Kirk Wright discovered several deplorable situations where seniors were living in houses they couldn’t afford to repair and keep up. She dropped her for-profit business and started organizing groups to repair and refurbish Habitat Homes for seniors in these conditions. 

AARP has launched a Drive to End Hunger. It’s been reported that a minimum of 9 million older Americans have to choose between eating and paying their mortgage each day. Between 2007-09, there was a 40-percent increase of Americans age 50-59 who suffer from hunger.

The Drive to End Hunger efforts address senior hunger through cash grants, SNAP enrollment support, meal donations, cash donations and general outreach.

Sprint Cup Champion and driver Jeff Gordon has joined the drive and is working to leave older adult hunger in the dust.  

Since AARP and its foundation launched the Drive to End Hunger, the initiative has donated more than 20 million meals.  

Ruth Wharton can be reached at 615-497-3044 or by email at

Amy Maloney, community outreach consultant, can be reached by calling 615-726-5101 or by email at

To access more discounts and details, visit

To connect with AARP in Tennessee, visit

Anyone with questions or who wants information on the TaxAide Foundation may call Kae Wilhite at 615-516-5004 or email her at or contact Julian Suggs at  

To discover the hundreds of ways AARP helps make a difference in communities, go to  

Bonnie Bucy is The Democrat’s Living section writer and may be reached at 615-444-6614 or by emailing


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