Tucson and Phoenix to start
Becky’s attention perked up when she read an item in the November AARP Bulletin about AARP Arizona’s plans to create community groups in Tucson for people 50 and older.
“I thought ‘What a wonderful opportunity to bring together people that are new [to the area] and even people who have been here for a while, to share stories and … interests, and tips on how to get things done, where the good places to go are, and so forth,’ ” she said.
The groups, which have begun launching over the past few weeks, will enable older people to socialize, share information, be advocates, listen to speakers or just have fun. Unlike local AARP chapters, which are involved in community service across the country, community groups are less structured, more social and open-ended.
In Phoenix and Tucson, the first groups are expected to meet monthly, one on the east side and another on the west side of each city. If there is enough interest, there may be a third group in central Tucson.
Initial reaction is positive. After the Bulletin item ran, Maria Ramirez-Trillo, an associate state director for community outreach for southern Arizona, received about 110 phone calls and emails from Tucson-area residents expressing interest.
Judy Notestine, a Tucson resident who inquired, said she also hopes a community group will give her another opportunity to make friends. She moved from St. Louis in late 2011 and runs a real estate appraisal office. But her main friend in her new city is her daughter.
“My only reservation about moving here was leaving behind my support network of friends and not wanting to be too much of a burden on my daughter for everything,” she said. “I joined a church, but it’s still hard meeting people and getting to know them and creating some friendships. It’s been fairly difficult. I am fairly outgoing, not shy by any means,” she said.
Ramirez-Trillo said that is a common theme.
“I got a lot of emails from people saying, ‘You know, I just moved into Tucson and I don’t know very many people. I’d like to have an opportunity to get together with people and make new friends,’ ” she said.
Chuck Strauss, a longtime resident of the Picture Rocks area northwest of Tucson, hopes to use an AARP group to find people to help him with his campaign for public transportation to and from Tucson for his community of almost 10,000 residents. He said that when he has a doctor’s appointment in the city, a cab to the nearest bus to Tucson costs him $35 one way.
“I’m just trying to get a coalition of groups and organizations so that, if push comes to shove, we have a little more to push with,” he said.
AARP Arizona officials say there are no preconceptions about how the community groups will function. “I would think that it would be open-ended in the beginning” to gauge how many and what kind of activities the members are interested in doing, said Kathy Stevens, AARP Arizona associate state director and outreach coordinator for the Phoenix area.
The community groups will not replace the state’s AARP chapters, which in some cases have existed for decades. A chapter in Youngtown celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010.
To find a local community group, call toll-free 866-389-5649 or go to the AARP Arizona website.
Elizabeth Beard is a writer based in Chandler, Ariz.