Making a Difference During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Phil Zarlengo
AARP Volunteer Transitions alumni coordinator and former AARP Board chair*

There are times when it’s easy to wonder how one person can make a difference during a crisis like COVID-19. AARP’s founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, knew both the power of personal resolve and impact that people could have when they worked together. One can’t help but be struck by the relevance and timeless nature of her words: “AARP makes easily possible the making of strangers into friends. The added happy companionship of old friends with these new ones make for wider interests for all. The AARP brotherhood is magic medicine for the lonely.”

We have an opportunity to reach out from behind our face masks and from the safety of our homes to check on the well-being of a neighbor, long-lost friend or family member. Whether it’s a phone call, email or a handwritten note, we can feel (and bring) the joy and “happy companionship” of dear friends. Our message can be a simple hello coupled with a willingness to listen to how the person is feeling and coping during these uncertain times. We may not have answers to challenges but we can demonstrate the care and concern we have for one another.

A volunteer recently shared that AARP has a huge challenge and an expectation from society that it will be a powerful advocate for older adults especially during this pandemic. The volunteer concluded that the “hopes of many is that this challenge will be met in pure Ethel style.” Let’s do our part!

*Phil also served previously as the AARP Rhode Island State President and continues today as a member of AARP RI’s Executive Council and State Legislative Committee.

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