Ethel Percy Andrus lived by what she preached.
By the time Andrus died in 1967, she had founded two nationally recognized groups, AARP and the National Retired Teachers Association, which would later be known as the Georgia Retired Educators Association.
“She didn’t think twice. She knew it needed to be done and she did it,” AARP communications director Serena Garcia said. “She was a good model for older people to live by.”
The two groups Andrus founded hosted an event honoring Andrus’ legacy for Women’s History Month Thursday at the Brenau Downtown Center, which included a free historical exhibition that will be on display inside the center until Monday.
Lily Liu, a former archivist and historian for AARP, told the crowd about Andrus’ life, her accomplishments and what her contributions mean today.
As living proof of the “Disrupt Aging” motto of the event, Andrus’ biggest achievements came after her 50th birthday.
“We have an excellent model to follow,” Liu said.
Andrus founded the teacher’s association when she was 63 and AARP when she was 73.
The original ideas behind AARP — giving dignity, independence and purpose to aging adults through acts of volunteerism, outreach and other services — are still the organization’s main missions.
“We are living Andrus’ vision,” Liu said.
Free tax assistance, a driver safety program, job searching in the digital age and more are offered to members now.
AARP also boasts 400 volunteers and 1.2 million members in Georgia alone, according to Garcia.
Andrus believed in volunteering as a good way to give back and spent many of her years giving her free time to charitable causes.
Assistant public defenders Wan Park and Anna Szatkowski attended the event after seeing a flier.
Both of their parents are members of AARP, so they thought it would be interesting.
“I didn’t know it was such a volunteer driven organization,” Park said. “They also seem to be active in the legislature.”