AARP Eye Center
As a young lawyer working for the state attorney general’s Philadelphia office in the 1990s, Nora Dowd Eisenhower began noticing a pattern as people came through her door seeking help.
Many were older residents living in aging houses who had decided to use their life savings for home repairs—only to find themselves targeted by criminals.
“They had older homes, they wanted to stay in them, and they got scammed by some bad actor,” Eisenhower recalls.
At the time, you couldn’t just Google a business or look up online ratings, Eisenhower says. She realized there was a need to educate homeowners about potential scams, so she and a couple of attorney general’s office investigators began going to senior centers to talk with people.
The work “really piqued my interest,” says Eisenhower, 69, of Philadelphia, who has made it her life’s work to serve older Americans. “It really made me sensitive to that population.”
Eisenhower is AARP Pennsylvania’s new volunteer state president, helping to lead advocacy and volunteer efforts to improve the lives of residents 50-plus.
Eisenhower brings four decades of professional experience to the role. Her current job is executive director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Aging. She will remain in that position, which she says closely aligns with AARP’s mission.
As head of the commission, she launched a pilot program to install air conditioners in older Philadelphians’ homes. Eisenhower has also promoted the practice of home sharing, which pairs older adults with roommates who can help provide companionship and extra income.
“She’s an extraordinary person,” says Anne Standish, head of development at Philadelphia’s Woodmere Art Museum, who works with Eisenhower on the commission. “She cares deeply about the people she’s serving.”
Eisenhower has also headed the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans and served in key roles with the National Council on Aging and the Philadelphia-based SeniorLAW Center.
Pushing for policy change
The state president role is a return to AARP for Eisenhower. In the mid-1990s, she coordinated AARP’s first national marketing campaign educating older adults about telemarketing fraud.
In 1999, she became AARP Pennsylvania state director, a job she held until 2003, when she was tapped by incoming Gov. Ed Rendell (D) to be state secretary of aging. The governor tasked Eisenhower with broadening access to prescription drug benefits for older Pennsylvanians.
Eisenhower was instrumental in expanding PACE, Pennsylvania’s prescription assistance program for residents 65 and older. She met with many state senators one-on-one to discuss the need to raise income limits for the program. Lawmakers unanimously passed the legislation.
“The state PACE program is the gold standard of what government can do with these types of programs,” she says.
Eisenhower, who grew up on Long Island, has two adult children and two grandchildren. She volunteers for her local Meals on Wheels in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood, baking dozens of cupcakes and muffins.
She comes to the volunteer state president role with expertise in housing and consumer fraud protection, says Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania state director, who calls her “the most passionate advocate you would ever want for 50-plus Pennsylvanians and their families.”
Eisenhower says she will make housing a top priority in her new AARP role.
“How do we keep people at home as long as they want to?” she says. “Housing is really the big issue.”
Hilary Appelman is a writer living in State College, Pa.
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