Gray Power

Christian-friendly senior organizations challenge AARP.
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In the 1960s, the boomers tuned into the Beatles, marched against the war, experimented with drugs, and then many turned to Jesus. Now, many of them want organizations that reflect their more conservative values. Some think that AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) is a bureaucratic Goliath that supports abortion, gay rights, and New Age ideas. Evangelical senior organizations, comparatively tiny, say they are the new Davids.

When President Bush signed the Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation last December, he praised key allies. They included not only the AARP, but also Charlie Jarvis of the United Seniors Association and Jim Martin of the 60 Plus Association. Other "value-based" or even Christian-oriented alternatives to the 35-million member AARP include Lou Sheldon's Christian Seniors Association, James Dobson's Focus Over 50, and the Christian Association of PrimeTimers. Not all are as politically oriented as United Seniors, which does not bill itself as a Christian organization. Jane Terry, the director of Focus Over 50, notes that her organization emphasizes meeting the everyday life challenges of being over 50. "I don't tend to directly respond to … the gay and lesbian approach of AARP. This is a public policy issue and not our issue."

The leading edge of America's 78 million baby boomers is approaching senior status. According to the Administration on Aging, the median net worth of households with members aged 65 or more is $108,885. For the total U.S. population, the median net worth is $55,000. Meanwhile, according to a survey by the University of North Carolina's sociologist Christian Smith, 35 percent of evangelicals are age 55 and above, making them the largest evangelical ...

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