Aging in America offers plenty of opportunities for seniors now, and most people no longer see retirement as the beginning of the end, on the contrary they can see the benefits of aging. Up until recently, however, senior citizens often disappeared discretely from the mainstream activities of society.
Business did not see senior citizens as a viable demographic market, community organizations considered them recipients rather than contributors, and in the rare occasions in which they were included in movies, commercials or news segments they were portrayed as unhealthy, unproductive, bitter and uninvolved – basically a burden on the economy and on the younger generations.
As opposed to a traditional focus on the younger generations, the marketplace is now struggling to address the needs and concerns of the aging population, this long-ignored segment.
With more financial resources and a growing awareness of their power as consumers, today’s senior adults are redefining the “golden years”. Of course, seniors still face many of the challenges and issues others have faced in the past, but they are definitely dealt with in different ways. The main difference is their active, rather than passive, involvement in these areas.
Instead of just accepting what is handed to them, today’s senior citizens have learned they can signal their importance to government agencies, health care organizations and financial institutions. Armed with this knowledge, seniors are no longer willing to just sit idly and watch as they are ignored – they are now questioning policies, making decisions, demanding the attention they deserve and enriching their lives.
Aging in America Affects All Areas of Society
Due to this increased awareness, aging in America promises to impact on all areas of society, but one particular area is already feeling the influence of the senior population as researches show it: the economy.
George Moschis, director of Georgia State’s Center for Mature Consumer Studies, notes that “the 55-plus age group controls more than three-fourths of this country’s wealth and the 65-plus group has twice as much per capital income as the average baby boomer.”
These groups use their financial resources to remain both physically and mentally active: they go on vacations, try out new hobbies, exercise, continue their education and learn to use devices such as smartphones, computers or even tablets.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of aging in America now is the broad range of ages and lifestyles it encompasses. In 1996, the baby boom generation of roughly 78 million began turning 50 at the rate of 300,000 a month.
This had a huge impact on the senior population, which now includes people whose lives were affected by everything from the Great Depression to the Civil Rights movement, and whose ages range from 50 to over 100.
Both parents and their children are now members of the senior population, creating an unprecedented paradigm shift in aging in America.
A wide age span, combined with financial success, creates disparity within the senior population. Many are already retired and reaping the fruits of their labor, pensions, health care plans and investments have doubled in value, while the younger end of the spectrum keeps planning and saving for retirement.
At the turn of the century, the average life expectancy was approximately 46 years, while today it is roughly 30 years more. Moreover, the number of citizens over age 85 will double by 2030, and 40 percent of the population will be older than 50 by the year 2050. This translates into more seniors than children and youth, for the first time in history.
At a first glance, it may seem that this would create a great burden on society, as it means a majority of members who typically require care and are heavily dependent on others. Though this may have been the case with previous generations, a closer look lets us know this is not the case with the new senior population.
Looking at today’s senior population, they may actually be the ones taking care of he younger generations and society’s responsibilities, not the other way around. Today, aging in America has allowed our seniors not only to experience some of the most seminal events in history, but to continue being involved in this country’s activities.
Many seniors nowadays commit their free time to various volunteer opportunities, while others have found jobs to keep them busy. They realize they still have something to offer, and they do it. A funny aging quote says: “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”Michael Pritchard
The senior population does not seem to be slowing down or decreasing in size, and it is virtually impossible to clearly define or label such a diverse and encompassing group of people. This very diversity, however, is one of their greatest strengths and assets. Aging in America now offers the chance to be a great an influence on the future of the country.