AARP looks to extend reach of aging issues beyond US

WASHINGTON: The AARP is ramping up to become a major player in the global debate over issues related to the aged and elderly.

WASHINGTON: The AARP is ramping up to become a major player in the global debate over issues related to the aged and elderly.

While the 35 million-member AARP has become one of the most powerful - and even feared - politically engaged advocacy groups in the US, the group has not made an effort to extend its considerable influence beyond America's borders.

The AARP has tapped trans-Atlantic PR boutique Brown Lloyd James to introduce the group to international political and media decision makers. The organization also hopes BLJ will raise its brand awareness via the media in other developed countries, as many other nations also grapple with issues raised by a rapidly graying populace.

"The AARP recognizes that the United States has much in common with other developed countries as our older populations increase in the coming years," said Nancy LeaMond, the AARP's director of international affairs. "Sharing our best thinking, best policy options, and best practices at the international level will prepare our nations to help manage pension, healthcare, and employment systems."

The AARP has increasingly realized in recent years that foreign debate on issues involving aging can have serious implications for its agenda on home soil.

"For instance, recently, some US politicians have pointed to Chile's privatized social security system as a possible example for the US," said BLJ EVP Mike Holtzman. "Such situations are a wake-up call for the AARP that they must become more engaged in these debates abroad."

Long known for its lobbying muscle in Washington, the AARP appears eager to begin glad-handing the policy makers and media elites of other developed countries. BLJ's brief focuses on Europe and Asia, and currently stands as a 14-month appointment.

The account win is a significant stride for five-year-old BLJ, whose clients have ranged from Polo Ralph Lauren to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

No one would discuss details of the agency-selection process, but BLJ said it was among the smallest competing for the AARP's business. It played to its experience globally on both the media and political stages.

"In the end, the AARP realized that bigger does not always mean better," said BLJ cofounder Peter Brown. "I think it really came down to who could provide the access they were looking for."

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