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80 Years After Social Security Was Born, AARP's CEO Says It's Time To Rethink Aging

Jo Ann Jenkins is AARP's first female CEO.

Eighty years ago, the Social Security Act was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. The program was designed to provide older adults a financial safety net after they retire.

Today, though, that safety net is taxed. 

Retirees are living longer and are finding it difficult to live off Social Security payments alone.

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins is in town to speak at the Mid-Cities Links Luncheon, and she spoke with KERA about the changing economics of aging.

Interview Highlights: Jo Ann Jenkins…

…On her campaign to ‘disrupt aging’:

“We need to really disrupt the thinking in this country about what it means to be 50 and older in this country. There are many people 50 [and older] that are still doing the things and living life to the fullest.

We need to focus on getting the public thinking on how do we adapt our communities to really allow people of all ages to live independently, get the private sector to start focusing on products and services that will serve the needs of the 50-plus, but also will be just as good for those who are teenagers and young adults.”  

…On AARP’s approach to Social Security reform:

“We’re going to have to make adjustments and changes…I’m not going to say where we’re willing to go [on policy], but we recognize that we’re all in this together…

When programs like Social Security and Medicare were put in place, life expectancy was in its high 60’s. People today are living well into their 80’s, 90’s and 100’s. I was looking at some statistics the other day that said the fastest0-growing age group in this country was people over the age of 85, and the second over the age of 100. We have to really think about how we get this country to start saving early and long so that they don’t outlive their financial resources.”

…On bridging the gap between Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers:

“For the most part, people want their independence and they want [AARP] to be fair to them and for us to be able to speak for them and with them…

We should not judge people based on how old they are. We don’t do that based on their race or their sex or their gender, so why do we continue to allow that to happen because someone is a particular age.”

Jo Ann Jenkins is the CEO of AARP. She’s in town to speak at the Links Luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel.  

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.