- Listen to Ron's Interview with Beth Finkel and James O'Neal -
How AARP Fights for Older People—in Ways You May Not Know About
Many people may think they know about AARP when they get that letter in the mail, mysteriously inviting them to become a member as soon as they turn 50. Or when they see AARP ads on TV. But there’s a lot they probably DON’T know about AARP, and it’s worth knowing about the many dimensions of this national nonprofit organization of some 38 million members—founded in 1958 by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal, with three founding principles: to promote independence, dignity and purpose for older persons; to enhance the quality of life for older persons; and to encourage older people “To serve, not to be served.” In today’s episode, we talk with two prominent AARP leaders: Beth Finkel, the long-time State Director of AARP New York, and James O’Neal, an independent consultant on older adult issues, and President of AARP New York. Beth and James will outline AARP’s many roles in advocacy, research, education programs, service, events, and resources that support older Americans. They’ll focus on a few major advocacy issues, such as protecting Social Security and Medicare; lowering prescription drug costs; and providing more support for family caregivers and home care workers. Beth and James will highlight AARP’s efforts—and their own personal involvement—in disrupting disparities in the treatment of older people. They’ll give a sample of the panoply of practical resources and services offered by AARP and its volunteers to the public—many of them free. And they’ll talk about the increasing importance of AARP’s Age-Friendly community approach—its commitment to intergenerational engagement, creating a more inclusive, vital society.
State Director , AARP New York
As State Director of AARP New York, Beth R. Finkel leads the most visible and influential organization in the state advocating for New York’s 50-plus population.
A native New Yorker, Beth leads AARP New York on behalf of its over 2.3 million members. Under Beth’s leadership, AARP NY has accomplished historic statewide reforms protecting the 50-plus population’s finances, healthcare services, housing and voting rights. She has led efforts to combat hunger among older adults and ensure low-income New Yorkers gain access to Medicare Savings benefits. Disrupt Disparities, the first holistic approach conceived and launched by Beth, was designed to confront inequities in health, economic security, and livable communities of 50-plus populations, and is now an AARP-wide enterprise initiative.
Through her years at AARP New York, she led and developed the statewide Kincare Coalition and New York’s Older Adults Hunger Stakeholders Coalition, convened the first Older Adults Hunger Summit to find solutions to barriers to food insecurity, and co-created the NYS Medicare Savings Program Taskforce, a consortium of government, public policymakers and advocates that worked to break down obstacles to enrollment of low-income Medicare beneficiaries. Beth serves on NYS’s Secure Choice Board, Food Policy Workgroup, Women and Finance Taskforce, Rx Affordability Board and the NYC Age-Friendly Commission.
Beth has published numerous whitepapers, including the first of its kind NYC Blueprint What 50 plus Deserve and the NYS Blueprint for Action, widely covered by the media.
She has been regularly named by City & State to its annual Albany Power 100. Beth holds a Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University in Community Organizing and a Bachelor of Science from American University in Business Administration. She and her husband live in Manhattan.
James O’ Neal
President of the Executive Council, AARP New York
James O’Neal is an independent consultant on older adult issues. He began his community healthcare career with Oxford Health Plans and assisted in establishing VNS CHOICE Managed Long-Term Care Plan at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York in 1998, where he worked for over 13 years. James was Director of Community Outreach at CenterLight Health Care (Beth Abraham) for 4 years until he retired in January 2015. He continues to promote healthcare education and community social services in ethnic and immigrant communities in New York City. James O’Neal is a Past President (2003) and current Board Member of the State Society on Aging of New York (SSA). He is a Board Member of Neighborhood SHOPP (senior centers and services), the Washington Heights/Inwood Interagency Council on Aging, the Public Health Association of New York City. He is President of the Bronx Interagency Council on Aging (BRICA). For over 10 years, James served as co-Chair of the Adult Immunization Coalition of the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene of New York City and was on the Advisory Board of the HUD-sponsored “Healthy Homes, Health Seniors” Community Study conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. In January 2018, James became a United Nations Representative for the International Federation in Ageing. He has been honored by the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City (now named LiveOn NY) with its Community Leadership Award, in addition to several other community service awards including: Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, the Chinese American Planning Council-Nan Shan Senior Center, the United Hindu Cultural Council of North America Award for Outstanding Community Service in Queens, India Home’s Friendship Award, and Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA) Community Service Award. In October 2014, James was the recipient of the Advocate for Older Adults Award from SSA. In October 2016, he was presented the Walter Beattie Award for outstanding contributions and commitment to the work of the State Society on Aging of New York. James is a BA graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Penn., and earned his MA from New York University in New York City.