A report released recently from the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Commerce entitled An Aging World: 2008 should make people pause. Consider these key findings:
· People aged 65 and over will soon outnumber children under age 5 for the first time in history.
· Most countries show a steady increase in longevity over time, which raises questions about the potential for the human lifespan.
· The world’s population aged 80 and over is projected to increase 233 percent between 2008 and 2040, compared with 160 percent for the population aged 65 and over and 33 percent for the total population of all ages.
· As people live longer and have fewer children, family structures are transformed and care options in older age may change.
Some quick implications:
· We live in a society that does not know how to deal with aging. We don’t talk about it. We don’t prepare for it. We don’t value it. Just look at the mass media. Most of the wealth is controlled by the older population and yet most of the programming and advertising is geared toward the younger population.
We need to start talking about aging issues.
· The Asian cultures have long been known for their respect of the elderly. Extended families are the norm. But even for them it is changing. As the global economic situation has made it necessary for both spouses to work, fewer families can take care of the growing number of elderly. And boomers have had fewer children so there is less of a safety net for care assuming the children would chose to provide it.
We need to start educating society on aging choices.
· I sang at a nursing home last week. Two people were celebrating 100 birthdays. In the book, Earth's Elders: The Wisdom of the World's Oldest People,Friedman interviewed 50 of the oldest people on earth about their keys to life. Average age – 113 years old. It could be very possible that the 100 year old may be in a home with a 55 year old.
We must foster intergenerational learning and respect if we are all going to live together, learn from one another and love one another.