For John Vasquez, becoming an AARP volunteer was more than just “pushing issues.” It was about making new friends.
“When you retire, you lose a lot of social contact,” said the 66-year-old former Austin municipal court judge, who now resides in San Antonio. “Leisure is great—I went on a lot of cruises, but it wasn’t fulfilling. I wanted to volunteer.”
Surrounded by others with similar commitment to community, he has found “it’s been easy to make new friends.”
In January, Vasquez was appointed volunteer state president of AARP Texas. Since 2017 he has been part of its Executive Council, which works to set the organization’s strategic objectives.
With Vasquez’s legal background, he has worked with Academia América, a local group that helps people complete their citizenship applications.
As an AARP volunteer, he’s participated in a voter registration drive, met with legislative staff on issues important to older adults and manned a table at $2 Tuesday-night baseball games with the minor-league San Antonio Missions.
As a result, he became more a part of a city he hadn’t lived in for over 30 years.
Ways to Get Involved
Volunteers are essential to AARP Texas’ mission, said Tina Tran, its state director.
They do everything from setting up tables at community events to addressing state and federal legislators about issues of importance to the 50-plus population. Volunteers organize retirement planning and caregiving seminars and work with city leaders to make communities more age-friendly.
“Local volunteers are very helpful when we need to talk to the city council or the county commissioners about issues we’re advocating,” Tran said.
At the state level, volunteer advocates have been urging the Legislature to better fund home- and community-based care and to improve resident safety at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
During the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers pivoted to move programming online with telephone town halls about COVID-19 and access to vaccines.
AARP Texas has also advocated for long-term care facilities to have adequate staffing, testing and personal protective equipment. Other priority issues include making it easier for older adults to access federal food assistance, allowing nurse practitioners to provide care to the fullest extent of their training, and closing loopholes that have permitted surprise medical billing for such things as prescriptions, testing and ambulance services.
Since becoming state president, Vasquez has focused more on advocacy, giving media interviews and appearing on current-events TV programs.
“I’ve learned about issues I wouldn’t have been aware of,” Vasquez said. “AARP has given me a purpose.”
Interested in volunteering? After recruits complete an orientation, they are matched with activities that align with their interests and skills.
Opportunities range from giving Fraud Watch presentations that help people avoid being victims of scams to sharing family caregiving resources to addressing state and federal lawmakers about issues of importance to older adults.
To learn more, visit aarp.org/volunteer or call 866-687-2227.
Thomas Korosec is a writer living in Dallas.
More on Volunteering
This story is provided by AARP Texas. Visit the AARP Texas page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
Friday, Jun 18, 2021 at 11:00am Central Time
Friday, Jun 25, 2021 at 1:00pm Central Time
Thursday, Jun 17, 2021 at 4:00pm Eastern Time
JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR