Catherine Taylor, who had served as executive director of Age-Friendly, RI has been appointed AARP Rhode Island State Director, succeeding Kathleen Connell, who became the state’s first State Director when she assumed the position in 1999, the state organization announced today. Taylor officially joins AARP on May 17, a week before Connell officially retires.
Taylor, like Connell, is a former politician, running unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in 2010 and Lieutenant Governor in 2014. Connell served as Rhode Island Secretary of State from1987 to 1993 and began her political career on the Middletown School Committee and Town Council.
As executive director of Age-Friendly RI, an initiative of Rhode Island College, AARP said Taylor led a broad-based statewide coalition of state and community agencies, social service and health care providers, businesses, academic institutions, advocacy and faith-based organizations and individuals of all ages committed to healthy aging. To support isolated older adults during the pandemic and beyond, she spearheaded development of a statewide Virtual Community Center and BeKindRI.org, an online platform to match volunteers with people in need of food delivery.
AARP characterized Taylor as an aging and dementia policy expert, advocate for older adults and people with disabilities and seasoned administrator.
“I am thrilled to join AARP and look forward to being a forceful voice on behalf of all Rhode Islanders 50 and older,” Taylor said. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime to advance the quality of life of older people in our state and cultivate appreciation of the important contributions that we make to our community. I’m looking forward to leading AARP’s vital work to build livable, age-friendly communities, foster social connection and inclusion, call out ageism and age discrimination, and promoting AARP’s robust policy agenda to ensure the health, safety and economic security of us all as we grow older.”
Taylor previously worked as Senior Advisor for Policy, Partnerships and Community Engagement at the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, and at the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center (RIGEC) at the University of Rhode Island as project advisor to the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program. She is a former director of the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs, former owner of a strategic consulting firm, and for 20 years a legislative assistant and speechwriter for Sen. John Chafee and later Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Taylor is a commissioner of the Rhode Island Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, and a recent member of the board of directors of the National Association for Geriatric Education.
An active community volunteer, Taylor is board president of the performing arts nonprofit FirstWorks, trustee of the Church of Saint Sebastian and member of the Providence Public Library Corporation.
“Catherine’s impressive background and experience matches AARP’s mission and our work perfectly at the local, state and national levels,” said AARP East and Caribbean Regional Vice-President Kelly A. Clark. “We are excited to welcome her as leader of our talented and dedicated Rhode Island state staff and the scores of volunteers who make our work possible.”
“I am very pleased with the selection and I know Catherine will do an outstanding job,” Connell said. “As leader of Age Friendly RI, she has been a strong AARP partner in work that both organizations recognize as critical to the health, well-being and future of 50+ Rhode Islanders.”
“The work Catherine has accomplished with Age Friendly RI, its partners and many volunteers is a sure sign AARP Rhode Island is in good hands,” added AARP State President Phil Zarlengo. “I’m confident that she will continue Kathleen’s legacy of distinguished leadership.”
Taylor is a graduate of Yale University. She and her husband, Robert Taylor, are the parents of four children and live in Providence.