What do you know about AARP? Is it just a membership for the "old folks"? Please let me share some ideas to consider. In case you want to know what I know about AARP, I will tell you up front that I have been a member for 26 years, that I worked on the state AARP legislative committee for 12 years, and that I feel secure in telling you what there is worthwhile in AARP.

First, let me share some of the experiences of being on the State Legislative Committee.

Each odd-numbered year we did a survey of Kansas members of AARP to see what their concerns were that should be considered by the Kansas Legislature. Nearly always, the top three or four issues had to do with health problems.

Then, we went to legislators to inform them of what our concerns were. In fact, it was not unusual for legislators to come to us to ask what we knew to be concerns of Kansas citizens.

It might be interesting for you to know who the people were who were serving on the Kansas AARP Legislative Committee. We had a man who was head of the University of Kansas department dealing with aging, a retired major general of the U.S. Army, a dean of a KU department, a woman who had spent years working with the aging, a man who had served a number of years as coordinator of the FDIC for a five-state program, and others who had great experience.

Here is one example of our work. We learned that Kansas had a "lemon law" only for automobiles. We felt a need for such a law respecting appliances and equipment covering such things as wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc., so we worked with the Kansas Attorney General's office in sponsoring a bill to acquire such a law.

It was passed with speed and with nearly every legislator behind it.

What I am saying is that AARP stands behind not only the aging, but it advocates for the children and grandchildren to be benefitted also.

What are some of the advantages of AARP? I can't cover them all, but here are a few of them.

* They have a good magazine that covers many of the issues of aging people, offering solutions to problems, up-to-date information concerning the issues, and references for more information,

* AARP offers various types of insurance. Please understand this. We have heard of people who will not become a member of AARP because they have heard that one must buy insurance from AARP if they belong. That is absolutely not true. One can buy insurance through them with leading insurance companies, but the choice is entirely yours.

* Many motels and hotels offer discounts to members of AARP.

* Locally, there are activities that are interesting. Here in Hays, we have had a Senior Day for a few years offering many types of entertainment from exhibits, to singing, to old movies, to "our" type of music, to hobbies, etc.

* The Hays Chapter of AARP has, for several years now, presented a summit meeting in October. The summit includes exhibits of many kinds, speakers who are well qualified to speak on topics of interest, many of them on medical issues where there is opportunity to ask questions, and a meal and a great time for visiting with those you haven't seen for a while.

* Each year, we have a Work Day, where volunteers spend some time doing something that is advantageous to people and the community. We have done many kinds of things such as planting flowers at the entrance to the library, helping people with the lawns, painting for those who can't get on a ladder, etc.

* AARP offers a wonderful service in Tax-Aide. Each year in the weeks preceding income tax time, they will help you prepare your report, and there is no charge. They are well-trained people and have done a wonderful service for those who need this help.

* Last year, the Hays AARP had a Senior Spelling Bee, which was well accepted. We will do it again this spring. It can be a good time to enjoy or to participate in. The winner then goes to the state spelling bee, with that winner going to the national bee.

* Each year the local AARP chapters keep track of voluntary services performed by those who enjoy and like to help others. You might be interested to know that the hours of voluntary service in our community is in the thousands of hours.

* AARP continually monitors political issues that are of interest or might be critical for us, and we are kept up to date on them. It is a valuable service that we might or might not know about except through those who make it their job to keep us informed.

These are some of the things that are included in AARP services. I just wanted you to know something of AARP.

Arris Johnson, Hays, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.