By: Sarah Halzack
May 13, 2014
AARP is set to announce Tuesday that Jo Ann Jenkins has been named chief executive, a move that will elevate an insider from the powerful nonprofit group to its top job.
Jenkins is currently executive vice president and chief operating officer of the District-based organization, which represents adults age 50 or over and has more than 37 million members.
Jenkins said in an interview that one of her top priorities will be to help the AARP community navigate career issues in today's uncertain economic recovery.
"Over 40 percent of our members are no longer retired," she said. "So we know that it's not just about retirement, but it's about how do we secure a financial future that may or may not include retirement."
Some of AARP's efforts on this issue will focus on boosting older adults' digital skills. For example, Jenkins said, some members have never applied for jobs online or are not adept at using
a tablet or cellphone. The organization recently announced it would
begin offering hands-
on education sessions through a program called AARP TEK to educate older Americans on using digital devices and platforms. Jenkins intends to widely expand the program in 2015.
Jenkins also expects to focus on strategies for bringing down health-care costs for older Americans.
"Our challenge and our opportunity is to be able to meet our members where they are and trying to help them come up with solutions for everyday kinds of problems," she said.
To do that, Jenkins plans to deepen AARP's presence in communities across the country with events such as workshops, education opportunities and even dating programs.
"People want AARP to be with them every day in their community, not just here in Washington," she said.
Jenkins will take over from Barry Rand on Sept. 1. She will be the first permanent female chief executive in the organization's history. Before serving as AARP's chief operating officer, Jenkins was president of AARP Foundation, where she led programs for low-income older adults that centered on fighting hunger, poverty and isolation. She also has served on the board of directors for AARP Services, the subsidiary of AARP that oversees products and services that carry the AARP name.
Jenkins "has demonstrated experience working across party lines that, coupled with her broad business experience, are essential to AARP's success at this time," Gail Aldrich, chairman of the AARP board of directors, said in a statement.
Jenkins said she will move to bring a more unified, clearly defined focus to AARP.
"I'll be focused on having conversations, not only with our management team but also in staff forums, to talk about what that means and how we need to change as an organization to get better and smarter," she said.