2010-05-20 / News

Islander appointed chairman of AARP national board

By Eileen M. Daly

Phil Zarlengo Phil Zarlengo Adding to a long list of honors and achievements, islander Phil Zarlengo, has been appointed 2010 chairman of the board of AARP. Zarlengo, who was elected to the AARP board of directors in 2006 and previously served as vice chair of the board for 2008-2010, will serve as board chair until 2012.

Zarlengo called his appointment a “great honor.”

“I think the position of chairman of the national board of directors is a very important position because the board actually sets policy and takes action for the 38 million people the organization represents. It is the largest institution representing seniors in the world,” Zarlengo said.

The all-volunteer board of directors is the governing body of the AARP and approves all policies, programs, activities and services for AARP’s millions of members, according to a statement released by the organization.

Zarlengo is currently a national consultant for developing and evaluating innovative staff training programs for urban school systems. Previously, he was the CEO of Brown University’s Regional and Islands Educational Research Laboratory, which developed practices for training educational leaders. He has also served as director of the Andrew Mellon National Center for Leadership Training at Brown University.

Prior to his election to the AARP national board, Zarlengo was AARP Rhode Island state president and a member of the AARP teams responsible for the 2006 national leadership forum and national volunteer engagement project.

According to Zarlengo, the AARP national board of directors is the body that manages AARP’s 1.4 billion dollar yearly fund.

As such, he said, the board is concerned with all of the rights currently afforded senior citizens, as well as working toward extending those rights.

“We fight to make sure seniors get appropriate health insurance, job security and livable communities. We would like to see more seniors be able to stay in their homes and maintain their independence longer,” Zarlengo said.

Livable communities, with safe streets, and located near such things as doctors, shopping centers and churches, will help to support the goal of increased independence, he said.

“We want seniors to enjoy living longer,” he said.

According to Zarlengo, the old stereotypes of seniors who are not active and involved no longer apply.

“We are living longer and we want to be active longer,” he said.

Zarlengo also said that seniors have made numerous contributions to society.

“Seniors have worked for a long time and are a vital part of our society. As a society, we need to honor our commitment to them,” he said.

One of Zarlengo’s top priorities as chairman, he said, will be to help seniors understand the recent health care reforms and benefits available to them under these reforms.

“Health care reform brought a lot of benefits to older people,” he said.

AARP will play a leading role in explaining those benefits and sorting through all of the myths, deceptions and falsehoods that have been put forth.

“People don’t know what to believe,” he said.

Some of the added benefits seniors can expect to receive, Zarlengo said, include a yearly colonoscopy, bone density screen and annual check-ups, which will be free or have reduced rates under Medicaid.

“There are a lot of benefits that need to be explained,” he said.

With all that and more ahead of him, Zarlengo acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done.

“It is a lot of work and it is volunteer work,” he said, “but it is a great honor to be head of such a board and to be able to do so much good.”

Anyone who is interested in the many volunteer opportunities available through AARP may contact R.I. Executive Director Kathleen Connell at 248-2670, or the Washington office at 202- 434-2449, Zarlengo said.

Return to top