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CLASS OF ’63 ’64

What’s New About Getting Old


Bill Novelli C’63 ASC’64

Every seven and a half seconds, Bill Novelli C’63 ASC’64 will tell you, another Baby Boomer turns 50. Novelli, the new executive director of AARP, says this “avalanche” of aging Americans provides an opportunity for his 35-million member organization to recruit more people and bring about greater social change.
    Formerly an executive with the international relief and development organization CARE and, more recently, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids [“Taking on the Tobacco Giants,” January/February 1999], Novelli joined AARP as associate executive director less than two years ago and was named its director in June. As different as they are, Novelli says, each of those organizations has been “a force for social change—and that’s what my interest and passion is.”
    “Baby boomers as they age are redefining aging itself as they’ve redefined everything they’ve done, because there are so many of them,” he notes. “There’s a lot of interesting research showing they intend to redefine retirement. They are going back into teaching, starting new businesses, and doing all kinds of things”—even returning to school. And, as a new AARP survey, “In the Middle,” details, many boomers are also juggling caregiving duties that may include their own children, their parents, and extended family members, such as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and even the children of neighbors or friends. The challenge for his organization is to reach out to this group while remaining relevant to the older generations of members.
    The organization’s Web site attests to the diversity of the aging experience, boasting online discussion groups about computers and career options along with reminiscences of 25-cent movies. It provides information about lobbying Congress for a prescription-drug benefit, a primer on selecting assisted-
living facilities, and a guide to volunteering.

    Soon after Novelli joined the organization, AARP polled its members about its services, from legal advocacy in the fight against age discrimination to wellness programs and lobbying for Social Security reform, and found that “there was a real convergence between what younger folks and older folks wanted. They were both interested in the same kinds of things.
    “They care about income security. They care about health and wellness, and they care about what I’m going to call their legacy—their children and their grandchildren.
    “Having said that, it doesn’t mean that 50-somethings want to receive [services and] information in the same way that 80-somethings do.” One new approach is the introduction of a membership magazine specifically for boomers, called My Generation.
    Though he notes that America’s older population today is “healthier and better educated and has more resources than ever before in our history,” Novelli sees plenty of room for improving quality of life at all points in the aging process. One of his key goals at the helm of AARP is “to focus on a continuum of independent living, long-term care, and end-of-life care.” Having accessible, affordable quality care “is an area where we fall down as a society.” Novelli would also like to see his organization expand its international focus in response to the phenomenon of global aging.

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Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 8/24/01