OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The nation's largest organization for people 50 and older hopes to influence issues like nursing home improvements and consumer fraud in telemarketing and home repairs when it establishes a new state headquarters in Oklahoma City.
The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, expects its Oklahoma office to open in spring 2001, said Nancy Coffer, who will transfer from the AARP's regional office in Dallas to be the group's first state director.
AARP boasts 400,000 Oklahoma members and 35 million in the United States. Setting up an office in Oklahoma is part of the organization's effort to decentralize.
In addition to influencing nursing home patients' rights and reforms, and measures addressing consumer fraud against the elderly, the group wants to establish a strong lobbying presence at the state Capitol, which is why officials are looking at a site close to the state Capitol to locate its office.
"We want a state office to deal with emerging issues as they are related to Oklahomans," Coffer said. "We want to be an association that is closer to its members."
Coffer said she has kept up with Oklahoma's ongoing nursing home-Health Department scandal. She said in addition to pushing for improvements, the group would like to introduce alternatives to nursing homes, including adult day care centers, assisted living centers, home health care services, and adaptive devices to allow older Oklahomans to remain in their own homes.
"We want senior citizens to be in their homes for as long as possible rather than being institutionalized," she said.
The advocacy organization also deals with elderly job discrimination cases, managed health care, the cost of prescription drugs, Social Security, senior-citizen wellness and fitness, and Medicare and Medicaid.
The announcement of the new state office on Monday coincided with a nationwide, multiyear awareness campaign called "Project Fast Forward," which is aimed at baby boomers between 50 and 55.