Driven by Advocacy: Dr. Len Kirschner's Impact on AARP Arizona

Posted on 04/12/24 by Dawn Alexander

Dr. Len Kirschner served as an AARP member for decades, making significant impacts by serving on the AARP Arizona executive council and as the organization’s state president while advocating for the 50-plus community across the valley.

Dr. Kirschner’s focus on advocacy is rooted in his 22-year active duty career in the United States Air Force where he commanded five Air Force hospitals before retiring as Commanding Officer of the USAF Hospital, Luke Air Force Base with the rank of Colonel. He spent ten years at military medical facilities outside the United States, including assignments in Turkey, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Spain. His work has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal and Vietnam Service.

Dr. Kirschner said he stumbled upon an article in The Capitol Times about advancing the initiatives within AARP Arizona’s executive council back in 2018. He was captivated by this opportunity. Dr. Kirshner enthusiastically embarked on a six-year tenure on the council before moving into the role of state president for an additional six years.

“I spent six years on the executive council and then six years as state president, then continued doing advocacy. And now I’m back on the executive council,” Dr. Kirschner said.

During these years, he played a crucial role in advocating for Medicaid coverage and raising awareness for national healthcare reform. He attributes his success to strong personal relationships with state officials in Arizona. Dr. Kirschner remains dedicated to advocating for AARP's positions on Medicare, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Len Kirschner Advocacy Video

He is continuing his engagement with his advocacy efforts, demonstrating unwavering commitment to AARP Arizona's mission and values.

As AARP states in its Public Policies, the organization serves as a voice for the diverse needs of over 100 million older Americans.

Dr. Kirschner recognizes the pivotal role that policy decisions play in shaping the well-being and futures of older adults in Arizona.

"I've learned that you can have a real impact on public policy if you're willing to actually step forward and tell the people you've elected what you want. Just because you voted in a primary or general election is not enough," Dr. Kirschner said.

To Dr. Kirschner, the power of senior voices is what pushes forward with elder care advocacy efforts.

"AARP members are old, over 50. They vote in primaries. They vote in the general,” Kirschner said. “And if you want to win, you better have the senior vote."

Dr. Kirschner emphasizes that voting is just the beginning. It is the willingness to actively engage with elected officials that can truly shape public policy.

His decades of advocating for specific legislation have cultivated valuable relationships with influential individuals. Dr. Kirschner played a key role in mobilizing citizens, elected officials and members of the business community to drive progress.

"You can actually have an honest conversation and they know where you're coming from. So, I think that it has been helpful for AARP that I've got those contacts," Kirschner said.

At AARP Arizona, Dr. Kirschner focuses on key legislation that addresses the unique challenges faced by the 50-plus community as they age.

"I am currently working at the legislature on addressing issues related to long-term care, assisted living, and memory care as well as the challenges faced by patients and their families in these settings,” Dr. Kirschner said.

He highlights the ongoing lack of oversight in these facilities, and is working with AARP members to push legislation that will improve oversight in these settings.

For Dr. Kirschner, improved elder care extends beyond this.

He also addresses other issues such as home and community-based services he has encountered.

AARP Arizona and Dr. Kirschner understand that engaging in acts of service and advocacy are even more impactful when joined by a chorus of voices and dedicated volunteers.

"If you have [knowledge] in those issues that AARP is interested in and that I'm interested in, then you're a very powerful advocate," Dr. Kirschner says.

AARP Arizona has a myriad of services that members can get involved in. From getting involved with your legislative district, to driver safety. There are many opportunities to volunteer at AARP Arizona.

“I think that almost anybody who's an AARP member could do something that they would find of interest. AARP can be very productive in their life. They can find it interesting and rewarding,” Kirschner said.

"Take that first step and say 'yes' to volunteering," Dr. Kirchner advised. "Every journey starts with that first step. Talk to AARP volunteers and staff to learn about available opportunities that match your interests, abilities, advocacy and background."

If you are ready to make a difference with AARP Arizona, please visit the volunteer website.

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