As AARP North Carolina Director, I am so proud to be associated with all of our volunteers across the state. You have carried forward the wonderful tradition of volunteer service that has always defined AARP. Most importantly, you made a very positive difference in the lives of older adults and their families and in the livability of our communities.Volunteers are the face of AARP at the local level.
Volunteers now lead the majority of our local events. Whether it is advocating for caregivers, easier ways to save for retirement, fighting for affordable utility rates, making communities more livable for people of all ages or protecting people from scams and fraud, AARP volunteers are engaged and effective and are contributing in so many ways.
Although our work has changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunities for volunteer engagement are stronger than ever. In addition to our priorities before the coronavirus outbreak, a new set of challenges has arrived and AARP volunteers will remain at the forefront of our response as they continue to bring real possibilities to older adults in the state.
Whether it is your participation in upcoming virtual events, taking action on critical issues, working with community partners to improve life for those of all ages, or just making a difference in one person’s life, your participation is needed so we can take on a whole new set of COVID-19 related challenges. AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond outlined some of those challenges including:
- Mental Health: A growing concern as people are isolated for longer and longer periods of time.
- Nursing Home Safety: Comprehensive outreach and advocacy is critical NOW to empower family members of residents and to fight for policies that will protect residents from sickness, isolation and neglect.
- Fraud/Scams: The pandemic has spawned a new crop of hackers targeting people who are awaiting their stimulus check, who are working from home, and who are just trying to stay healthy.
- Pressure on Earned-Benefit Programs: The pandemic response and the ballooning federal deficit will bring front and center the debate between those who argue to reduce the deficit through reduced spending and those who say it must be solved through new revenue streams (taxes). In either case, pressure on earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare will be very real. We need to be planning now.
- State & Local Finances/Budgets Being Decimated: State and local governments are on the frontlines of this crisis, already increasing spending on public health, Medicaid, and unemployment. Mid-term the larger source of concern will be the effects of the likely recession. Large scale “social distancing” will reduce consumer spending and workers’ wages and, in turn, cause sales and income tax revenues to plummet. Lower tax revenues plus increased demands for funding will severely strain state and local budgets. Most states have balanced budget requirements, meaning that declines in tax revenues, if not offset by increases in federal funding, must be met by spending cuts or tax and fee increases.
- Voter Engagement Campaign / Election Procedures: The remaining presidential and congressional primaries have been moved to late spring/early summer, and many states have enacted measures to increase access to remote voting, like vote by mail and lifting restrictions on obtaining absentee ballots. Our focus must be to continue urging these elected leaders to make it easier to vote. Once the procedures for participating in these primaries have been established, state offices will need to be especially focused on education.
As you see, our challenges are great, but so too are the capabilities, hard work and dedication of hundreds of AARP members who are lending their skills and talents to AARP and other community organizations working together to bring real possibilities to Tar Heels as we age.
So once again, thank you for being such a strong voice for your loved ones, your communities and for older adults in North Carolina. If you want to learn more about volunteer opportunities where you live, send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org – please add “volunteer” to the subject line with the city or town of residence.