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AARP AARP States Wisconsin Advocacy

AARP Wisconsin Advocacy Volunteers Persuade with Personal Stories

Sue Dierksen shared her experiences with legislators about caregiving for her husband David during his cancer treatments.
Photo by Lauren Justice

Former nurse Sue Dierksen has a ready reply when asked about life post-career.

“I’m not retired; I’m repurposed,” she said.

Since becoming an AARP Wisconsin advocacy volunteer last year, Dierksen, of Gleason, has seen her personal testimony directly influence lawmakers.

“As I thought about the next chapter of my life, I thought, What are the things that matter? One of those things was getting more involved in the local community and seeing where I could help,” she said.

For the past nine years, Dierksen, 65, has been assisting her husband as he navigates cancer treatments.

She shared her caregiving experiences with legislators.

Dierksen’s insights made a difference to the nuances of the Wisconsin state budget, said state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hill).

AARP volunteers who can present clear, convincing testimony based on their life experiences can help shape new laws, Darling said.

A case in point is an additional $36.9 million that the state legislature approved in the latest budget cycle for personal-care workers. One of the main reasons for that 9 percent increase in funding was testimony by AARP volunteers, Darling said.

“They said that workers weren’t paid enough,” she said. “We changed the legislation so they would get more and the profession could attract more qualified people.”

When AARP members show up in force at candidates’ rallies and town halls, wearing their signature red T-shirts, it signals solidarity—and lawmakers notice, Darling added.

Raise your voice

April is National Volunteer Month, and becoming an AARP advocate might fit your goals. AARP Wisconsin is looking for new advocacy recruits.

Legislators are weighing complicated policies, and they need to hear from older adults about how current laws affect them and their challenges with issues like prescription drug prices, caregiving and affordable housing in order to age in place, among other topics of concern.

Advising state lawmakers is just one way that AARP members are advocating for caregivers, retirement security and other critical issues.

In this election year, AARP Wisconsin citizen advocates are more important than ever, said Helen Marks Dicks, its state issues advocacy director.

Volunteers can focus on fraud prevention and grassroots advocacy skills, as well as mastering the art of informing and persuading lawmakers at all levels.

They also help organize local outreach, which provides an opportunity to socialize and make friends.

Interesting in becoming a volunteer? Learn more by emailing or by calling 866-448-3611. You can fill out your personal information at

Be sure to include details about your location and the type of volunteering you are interested in. The AARP Wisconsin site ( also regularly posts volunteer opportunities.

To learn more about the work AARP is doing to make life better for all Wisconsinites as they age, follow AARP Wisconsin at or at

Joanne Cleaver is a writer living in Portland, ME.

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