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Basic Concepts 3

Basic Concepts 3

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Basic Concepts 3

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  1. Basic Concepts 3 Social and Economic Outlook for an Aging Society

  2. The Varieties of Aging Experience • Stereotypes suggest that age is the great leveler – thus, elders are commonly thought to be much alike • However, the opposite is true • Old age is seen as a “roleless role” – a status with no clearly defined purpose or rules of behavior • Older people are often victims of ageism – stereotyping and discrimination based on age

  3. The Varieties of AgingExperience (cont.) • Social Class – a key factor influencing the experience of old age in all societies • Social class is affected by occupation, income, property, and education • Race and Ethnicity – Whites make up roughly 84% of the U.S. population over age 65 • But minorities will comprise a significantly larger proportion in the future • African Americans – the largest minority group among the aged, comprising 9% of Americans over age 65 • They’re more likely to experience the crossover phenomenon – they tend to experience more functional impairment, but are less likely to be admitted to nursing homes

  4. Gender and Aging • In all parts of the world, women comprise the majority of the older population • The typical rate is for men to die early and for women to survive with chronic diseases • Physical signs of aging bring more severe consequences for women than for men • Among women in minority groups, there is a pattern of cumulative disadvantage which results in less economic security in retirement

  5. Multiple Jeopardy and Economic Well-Being • Double jeopardy (or multiple jeopardy) – faced by older people who are simultaneously members of two (or more) disadvantaged groups • The poverty rate is higher for older people than for any other adult group • Regardless of age, the poverty rate among minorities is more than twice as high as among Whites • Given the sharp differences between men and women, Whites and minorities, how should universal programs such as Social Security take account of such differences? • There is also controversy about how to take account of women’s experience in family roles and how these characteristic gender differences should influence Social Security

  6. The Economic Status of Older Americans • Economic circumstances vary sharply among different subgroups in the U.S. • Since the early 1980’s, the income of older people in the U.S. has grown faster than the income of younger people • Income – refers to available money, or its equivalent in purchasing power • Wealth – refers to all economic assets of value, regardless of whether they produce cash • Both assets and income have a much wider range than in other age groups – meaning there are more extremes of wealth and poverty among the old

  7. Sources of Retirement Income • Retirement income policy in the U.S. is sometimes called a “three-legged stool” • 1) Social Security, 2) private pensions, and 3) individual savings and other assets • 9 out of 10 older adults rely on Social Security for some portion of their income, and 20% get all their income from it • Older people have not shared equally in the increase in retirement income • The disadvantaged – poorly educated, minorities, and women – haven’t had jobs that allow them to collect maximum Social Security benefits or private pensions, or accumulate wealth

  8. Changing Financial Outlook • Life-cycle model of savings – predicts that as baby boomers reach later life, they will begin to put more money into savings when retirement looms on the horizon • Older people who live on fixed incomes are affected more severely by inflation than other groups • The overall economic position of older Americans has improved substantially in the past two decades • However, the stereotype that most older people are affluent is mistaken • There is enormous variation among subgroups of the aging with respect to economic circumstance • A large group of older people have been brought above the technical poverty line are still poor

  9. Public Policy on Aging • When today’s elderly were born – most before 1935 – the U.S. government gave no special attention at all to issues of old age • Since the 1970’s, the federal budget has “gone gray”, and today over 30% of the total federal budget is spent on the aged • Until the 20th century, the aged population was small, and government’s role was very limited • The Great Society legislation of the 1960’s included steps that federalized old-age assistance, and passed landmark laws like Medicare and Medicaid

  10. The Aging Network • Aging Interest Groups – during the Great Depression, older Americans banded together to advocate for their own interests while government was expanding social welfare programs • The most prominent age-based movement today is AARP (1958) • Many other groups include the National Council on Aging, the Gerontological Society of America, the American Society on Aging, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

  11. Trends in Public Policy and Aging • Social Security and Medicare have grown rapidly because they have been available on the basis of age alone, without means testing • Federal programs for older people continue to enjoy broad political support • Programs for older Americans have developed incrementally for the most part, making it more difficult to see just how much they have grown over the years • The growth of benefit programs for the aged reflects the growth in size of the aging population