Noël Bonam believes aging neighbors, friends and relatives are important members of our communities and have much to offer.

“Sometimes, people forget that,” he said in a recent telephone interview.

Bonam is working as the new state director for AARP Maine to raise awareness of the vitality and social value of people older than 50.

The native of India moved to Portland in 2000, then took an “international gig” as head of The Global Institute, a public benefit organization (with operational hubs in Denmark, India and the United States), specializing in social equity, leadership development and organizational sustainability.

He began his new job back in Maine a couple of weeks ago.

“I am thrilled to join AARP and look forward to being a forceful voice on behalf of its 200,000 members in the state and all Mainers 50 and older,” he 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.”

Bonam said he looks forward to leading AARP’s goal of building livable, age-friendly communities.

“Age-friendly” begins with the recognition that older people are “truly very important, very actively participating in our communities,” he said.

That recognition involves creating space to help them thrive and pursue their passion, “whatever it might be,” he said.

“We often think creating buildings can be a starting point,” Bonam said, “but if I’ve learned anything in the past 18 months, it’s that that space can be anywhere, as long as we have a sense of appreciation and respect for older Mainers and what they can bring to the table.”

For example, retired leaders, such as town councilors and school board directors, can mentor younger leaders.

“Space doesn’t have to be in a building,” Bonam said. “It could be a space that is built upon a commitment to working sincerely with aging populations and creating mutual partnerships, mutual respect.”

He said that can be done by creating awareness of how an ideal age-friendly community would look.

Broadband internet availability and public transportation in rural areas are a couple of examples of how to enhance the lives of older Mainers.

All in all, Bonam’s job will involve recruiting volunteers and creating avenues for them to engage with AARP members in meaningful ways.

“We are really looking at strategically developing a very large base of volunteers,” Bonam said. “Now that we have a team back in place, we are asking, ‘What does 2.0 look like?’”

Former State Director Lori Parham served for nearly 10 years before accepting a position in AARP’s national government affairs office in May.

Her successor brings extensive experience in leadership development; stakeholder engagement; diversity, equity and inclusion practice; and civic leadership, according to officials.

Bonam is the former director of the Maine Bureau of Multicultural Affairs. He practices facilitative leadership, and is committed to stakeholder engagement and empowerment, long-term sustainability and dialogue for action.

“Noël’s impressive background and experience matches AARP’s mission and our work perfectly at the local, state and national levels,” AARP East and Caribbean Regional Vice President Kelly A. Clark said. “We are excited to welcome him as the leader of our talented and dedicated Maine state staff and the scores of volunteers who make our work possible.”

Bonam has a master’s degree in public personnel management from Osmania University in India and a certification in diversity, equity and inclusion in human resources from Cornell University in New York.

He is a graduate of the Senior Executive in State and Local Government mid-career program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and chairman of the board of trustees of the Association for World Education, an international organization specializing in lifelong learning with consultative status at the United Nations.

“I really do care about community development and civic engagement,” he said. “I do care about having a social impact for everyone in our society. I’m very passionate about these things.”

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