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Further, what impact will future immigration policies, whose intent may be to eliminate the shortfall of skilled U. Families make up the front line of our adaptation to an aging society. For the family, the core question of the aging society relates to the uncertainty regarding its capacity to play its traditional role as safety net and exhibit adaptive capacities to respond to a variety of financial, social, and health-related needs.

Moreover, these changes are amplified by the growing diversity that results from increased stratification. The strength and salience of intergenerational ties become more prominent features in an aging society, and the traditional life course is being altered in part because of increased longevity.


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The transition to adulthood comes five or more years later than it used to, placing parents of young adults in the challenging position of helping support their parents or even their grandparents while launching their own children toward independence. Issues such as intrafamilial supports, housing, financial transfers, caregiving, and new familial roles will also inform critical policy decisions surrounding the changing face of U. The future roles of older individuals in society will have a dramatic impact on the likelihood that the United States will be productive, cohesive, and equitable.

This set of issues can be conveniently divided between work and retirement matters and civic engagement matters, although they are closely interrelated. The likelihood of a retiree volunteering is very much influenced by whether that person volunteered while still in the workforce. Such engagement is beneficial not only for retirees but also for the general population. Technology bridges the worksite to areas of civic engagement and, depending on the type of technology and its fit with the abilities and needs of older individuals, can wind up either facilitating or inhibiting their participation.

Substantial opportunity exists for policy changes and technological and other worksite modifications and educational interventions that will not only make retention of older workers more attractive to employers, but will also take advantage of the many strengths older workers offer.

Much of the most recent work suggests that the severe disability rates as measured by activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living scales are now stable in older individuals, having halted their decades-long decline; and that, for unknown reasons, functional mobility impairments may be rising in individuals aged fifty to sixty-five. Some of the same societal forces that led to longer lives have also shortened the half-life of knowledge in science and technology. How can human capital be expanded at different points along the life course?

Can the misalignment between education and work that is aggravated by increasing longevity be improved through a closer relationship between educational institutions and the workplace? Stakeholders need to understand and employ the most effective approaches to keep young individuals in school and to provide a coherent approach to lifelong learning that gives individuals the skills and attitudes they need to continue to productively evolve within overall societal and work environments.

Although returning to school — now common among younger adults — is still relatively rare among individuals over forty, providing access to educational institutions for the near-old and old is no less critical than keeping younger people in school. Education must be redefined as a lifelong experience. Although it might seem that the ongoing national debate about health care reform may have exhausted this topic, the Network believes that some important and often neglected areas of the discussion are directly related to the demographic transformation.

These include the development of a more geriatrically sophisticated health care system in which most providers physicians, nurses, dentists, social workers, psychologists, pharmacists, and others are competent in diagnosing and treating medical diseases and syndromes that are common in old age, as well as a strong reliance on new interdisciplinary models of care that are more effective in managing the health care problems of frail older individuals with multiple impairments.

In addition, a reorientation to a life-course preventive health model is needed to strengthen education about healthy lifestyles and intervention implementation in at-risk groups so that future older individuals will enter the Medicare program healthier and at higher levels of functioning than their predecessors. Finally, the United States needs sustainable and clearly articulated policies that deal humanely with care at the end of life.

New Directions in the Sociology of Aging.

Over the past fifteen years, successful aging has been a major theme of gerontological research. Much of the work in the field has been stimulated by the model of successful aging proposed by the MacArthur Network on Successful Aging, which is focused primarily at the level of the individual. While many of the issues and policy options discussed in this volume are relevant to individuals, our primary current focus is at the level of society. The interaction between societal change and the status of aging individuals represents fertile territory for future research.

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Among the essays are S. And S. Taken together, these policy options provide a broad blueprint for successful societal adaptation to the aging of America. Matilda Riley, Robert L. Furstenberg, Jr. Butrica, Richard W. More people than ever are spending a significant amount of their lives in a non-work environment.

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These numbers will grow at a quickening pace. Living in a society where social lives are structured around work and its organization, how can we cope with a situation in which a large and now ever-growing segment of the population is leaving the domain of formally organized work?

Will this new paradigm create a new structure of social inequality? Will we witness the growth of a new affluence divide between age-defined welfare classes and production-based classes? Will age become an increasingly acute differentiator of poverty juxtaposed with productivity and achievement for the producer class? With the current retirement structure, large shifts from the working population into retirement can be anticipated, often at the expense of the potential contributions of the aged to social well-being. Not only is the ratio of the older to younger adults increasing but also the proportion of well-educated, healthy, and economically secure adults who are entering old age and who have the ability to continue to make significant contributions, but whose opportunities to do so may be limited.

Concern over this growing disconnect between aged abilities, and the roles they are expected to fill, suggests we need urgent social policy reform. How can social policy increase the productivity of the aged and reduce the social and financial burden of supporting a growing older population?

Aging and society

We need to develop better methods and strategies to integrate and keep aged citizens members of productive society. This leads to a key question: How will the large population of aged be able to live and function independently, carrying out activities and tasks essential to an acceptable quality of life? Aging is marked by changes in physiology and psychological functioning, accompanied by difficulties in adjusting to new social conditions and everyday technologies.

It also involves lost abilities such as visual acuity or physical impairment. To maintain a positive self-image, the aged person must develop new interests, roles, and relationships to replace those that have become diminished or lost.

Immortality and Society

Society should not demand declining involvement of its aging members. Rather, we should take measures to avoid the injustices of aging by continuing to apply the same norms to old age as it does to other ages in the negotiation of variables such as ethnicity, gender, lifestyle, and socioeconomic status. Subscribe to receive monthly updates by email about conferences, publications, and news from the field.

The Economic Outlook of an Aging Society The growth in the older population is a relatively new phenomenon that began during the second half of the twentieth century, first in developed countries and more recently across developing countries as well. There will also be a rising risk of retiree poverty for millions of people, especially for those who have been unable to save enough through their pension and retirement plans Economic growth, taxation, consumption, investments, and the welfare system will all impact society across all age groups.

Public Health, Public Policy, and Government and Community Practices Even with all the changes the aging population will bring, the aging phenomenon can be seen as a success for current public health policies — policies that are increasing the physical health, psychological and social wellbeing, and the cognitive and functional abilities of older people. Health, Wellness, and Aging Health promotes productivity, and the opportunity to be productive encourages good health.

Bosworth In cases where individuals are unable to take advantage of phased-in retirement—due to health issues, family obligations, or skills mismatch—governments could promote and reward volunteering, care work, and artistic work among the elderly. Such unpaid activities improve the quality of the social fabric, help the well-being of those engaging in them, contribute to the economy, and reduce healthcare and welfare costs. Volunteering is among the most important pro-social behaviors with many social and individual benefits.

For example, about 25 percent of U. Additionally, late-life volunteers have lower rates of deteriorating mental and physical health and delayed mortality. Because of these benefits, national policies should seek to facilitate, reward, and adapt such opportunities for older individuals. And care work undertaken by older people—such as childcare, preparing meals, cleaning, and helping the elderly or disabled—should be recognized for its value and rewarded financially.

Further, providing incentives and encouraging the elderly to engage in creative work related to painting, music, or creative writing can also be beneficial to society and prevent social isolation. Governments can promote such activities by financing arts and crafts courses in social clubs or community centers for older participants.


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Providing opportunities for the elderly to remain in the workforce longer as well as engage in volunteering, care, and artistic activities can provide both social and economic benefits and relieve some of the fiscal pressures related to aging societies. However, work activities for the elderly do not automatically translate into social welfare gains.

Policies should be arranged in a way that recognizes the dignity and autonomy of older individuals as opposed to providing them with meaningless or degrading tasks merely to keep them occupied.

Age & Aging: Crash Course Sociology #36