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Basic Concepts 3 Social and Economic Outlook for an Aging Society 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

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Basic Concepts 3

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Basic concepts 3 l.jpg

Basic Concepts 3

Social and Economic Outlook

for an Aging Society


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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