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Bar News - May 20, 2015

Practitioner Profile: AARP Director: Aging Just Got Cooler


Todd Fahey moved last year from private practice to the helm of AARP New Hampshire.
Todd Fahey is a proud, card-carrying member of AARP and, at 48, he’s quite possibly among the youngest of New Hampshire’s 229,000 members. But Fahey earned his membership philosophically rather than chronologically when, in March 2014, he was named state director of AARP New Hampshire.

“Over the years I’d dealt with nonprofit issues, from creation to general representation to change, whether it was about mergers or closures or reorganizations,” Fahey says of his previous life, eight years as an attorney with Concord-based Orr & Reno. “I would say to people that my mind and heart was in the nonprofit sector for a long time until my body finally followed.”

Like most everything else that affects baby boomers, there’s nothing stodgy about today’s AARP. It has taken a dramatic turn since its beginnings in 1958, no longer your father’s low-key retirement association.

“We’re disrupting aging and we’re not going to accept anymore that aging needs to be a quiet march into sadness or irrelevance,” says Fahey. “It’s a vibrant time to be involved in AARP, a time when age is not a barrier to living a rich and full life and contributing fully to the world. We inspire people to live the best life they can live, and reimagine what life and work looks like.”

By the same token, he’s not a fan of the catch-phrase “silver tsunami,” which has been coined to describe the burgeoning baby boomer workforce.

“I see the 50-plus and aging population as more of a breakwater than a tsunami,” Fahey says. “We are definitely looking at marking who we are and what we do to a new generation of seniors, and we need the right language to tell the story.”

After eight years as a director and shareholder with Orr & Reno, where he gained extensive experience as general legal counsel to for-profit and nonprofit organizations, Fahey made the move to AARP when he was presented the right opportunity at the right time.

“Our slogan at AARP is real possibilities, and it’s a deliberate one – and part of the reason I’m here. I was drawn to the social mission, which is to enhance the quality of life for all as we age, through education, programming and advocacy,” says Fahey.

“Our research said that as people age, they believe their opportunities diminish. We address that head-on by saying there are still very real possibilities – endless possibilities – for all of us as we age.”

If you’ve picked up an AARP magazine in the past few years, it’s probably occurred to you that growing old never looked so good, or seemed so hip or cool. The seismic shift in perception of what it means to age in America is now defined by a parade of cover models that have included matinee idols Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, First Lady Michelle Obama, and legendary musicians Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney, not to mention the voluptuous Raquel Welch, in a strapless leopard-print gown, rocking her sexy curves at 70 with more intensity than a Rolling Stones world tour.

Fahey says part of his mission now is to get the word out that AARP is the place where life intersects, not just for those over 50, but also for their families, their communities, and the hot-button aging issues of the day that eventually catch up with all of us – particularly here in New Hampshire.

“New Hampshire is one of the most rapidly-aging states in the nation, but we’re also front and center in the nation with the first-in-the-nation primary, so this is an exciting time. Through some of our efforts and visits with candidates – and we’re going to be doing a lot of that – we have a chance to talk about our social mission,” says Fahey.

The graying of New Hampshire is due mostly to demographic changes in the state. But there is also, in some communities, “in migration” of those seeking to retire here often to avail themselves of New Hampshire’s trust-friendly laws and tax-free status, says Fahey. The latter is a trend that may certainly expand the need among his fellow attorneys for niche practices, particularly in estate planning.

But regardless of the numbers, the top concerns here in New Hampshire mirror the top concerns around the world for an aging population – financial security, caregiving, and how best to support their growing desire to remain home and “age in place,” rather than in a nursing home or other facility, Fahey says.

“We’re going to do that by doing work with livable communities, so that the place we call home in New Hampshire is a suitable place for all ages,” Fahey says. “It’s an intergenerational challenge, one that must be met in innovative ways with policymakers.”

“Think about the wisdom that comes with age. Think of how you regarded your grandparents, as people who you could ask just about anything, because they had so much experience. We just need to start looking at the aging population as a resource, and start celebrating that,” says Fahey.

“For much of my life I was dealing with the minutia of lawyering. Now I am dealing with much larger issues, and how to bring many divergent groups and views together to solve pressing problems we face in innovative ways. It’s a wonderful challenge, and while I miss my colleagues at Orr & Reno, I love what I’m doing.”

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