Bill Novelli is CEO of AARP, a membership organization of 40 million people age 50 and older, half of whom remain actively employed. AARP’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for all as we age. Prior to joining AARP, Mr. Novelli was President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, whose mandate is to change public policies and the social environment, limit tobacco companies’ marketing and sales practices to children and serve as a counterforce to the tobacco industry and its special interests. He now serves as chairman of the board. He was also Executive Vice President of CARE, the world’s largest private relief and development organization.
Mr. Novelli is a recognized leader in social marketing and social change, and has managed programs in cancer control, diet and nutrition, cardiovascular health, reproductive health, infant survival, pay increases for educators, charitable giving and other programs in the U.S. and the developing world. His book, 50+: Give Meaning and Purpose to the Best Time of Your Life, was updated in 2008. Mr. Novelli serves on a number of boards and advisory committees. He holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. from Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication, and pursued doctoral studies at New York University.
Question: Do we mistreat our elders?
Bill Novelli: We don’t mistreat our elders per se. Yes we have a certain obsession with youth. I think every culture does. But you know I think the boomers are changing that. And the reason I say this is that the 50 plus Americans have the majority of the disposable income in this country. So they’ve got the money. They want to spend it. They’re intelligent. If you look in the AARP magazine, you’ll see ads for everything from computers, to financial services, travel, you name it. Cosmetics. And so as people age – as the boomers get older – they are so strong, and they are so big, and they are so important that companies, and the entertainment industry and others – if they insult older people; if they practice aging stereotypes, they’ll do it at their own peril because boomers are not gonna tolerate that.
Question: Do we treat them well?
Bill Novelli: You know there are several points of view with respect to treatment of older people. There is elder abuse in this country. It’s kind of a hidden, dark, dirty secret. There is that, without question. And a lot of it comes from family members. I mean so you always have those kinds of . . . of, you know, negative aspects of any society, of any culture. And we have it too. As far as people going into nursing homes and sending their elders off to nursing homes, many, many people are caring for their loved ones at home. Now it is true that if somebody has Alzheimer’s or some other disease, it becomes very, very difficult to do that. And it is true that we’re a mobile society. And so many of us are living apart from our parents. And for those kinds of reasons, there are people, of course, who are in . . .who have to go into nursing homes. And I think that other countries are beginning to follow suit as well. Everybody would wish they could take care of their loved one at home, but it’s not always possible. And so what we have to do is balance home care and institutional care. And we have to make sure that both of them are quality . . . quality experiences for older Americans. We need to work on that, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing that people have to go into nursing homes, just so the experience is a good one.
Recorded on: 9/27/07