Aging America: Meet ‘aging America’ (Get ready! ‘They’ are us!)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Aging America

An Aging Nation Population Chart of Americans 65 and older 2012 to 2050

From OurValues creator Dr. Wayne BakerOver the years, the OurValues project has explored many issues related to aging. The issue remains so pressing that, this week as I travel with my family, we will revisit the issue and recommend some popular OurValues resources to help you get conversations started with friends. Along with the ReadTheSpirit magazine cover story that features advocate-for-the-elderly Missy Buchanan, this week’s OurValues series is perfect to share with your friends, a class or a small group.

Public domain photo of a happy older man along the shoreHow fast are we aging?

And, how different will we look?

There’s a startling snapshot of our future in a recent report based on US Census data. (You can download all 28 pages of the report, if you wish.) Researchers Jennifer M. Ortman, Victoria A. Velkoff and Howard Hogan sketch this picture of our future:

In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012. The baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase in the older population, as they began turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, the surviving baby boomers will be over the age of 85.

Then, “disturbing” is a term prominently used by the venerable Harvard Gazette in a summary of a new joint study that concludes: “U.S. unprepared for housing needs of aging population.” Here’s a troubling snapshot from that Harvard story:

Housing is critical to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. High housing costs currently force a third of those 50 and older—including 37 percent of people 80 and over—to pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes that may or may not fit their needs, forcing them to cut back on food, health care, and, for those 50-64, retirement savings.

Much of the nation’s housing inventory also lacks basic accessi­bility features—such as no-step entries, extra-wide doorways, and lever-style door and faucet handles—preventing older people with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes.

Additionally, with a majority of older adults aging in car-dependent suburban and rural locations, transportation and pedestrian infrastructure is generally ill-suited to those who aren’t able to drive, which can isolate them from friends and family. Finally, disconnects between housing programs and the health care system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization.

Are these images uncomfortable?

Let’s paraphrase Pogo’s famous line: “We have met the enemy—and he is us!” Now is the time to stop thinking about “aging” as an issue affecting someone else. Right now we are meeting “aging America”—and “they” are us!

Join us all this week for a five-part series in which, first, we take a hard look at the facts. Then, we also will look back at some of the most popular OurValues columns on aging. And, by the end of this week, we will wind up uncovering some surprisingly good news as well!

POPULAR COLUMNS from OurValues: If you’re reading this series and would describe yourself as a depressed baby boomer, then you’re not alone. Earlier this year, we published a series on this particular challenge faced by millions of Americans. Remember that this week’s five-part series isn’t intended to be a downer. At OurValues we’re always looking for signs of American unity and hope. On this theme of aging, check out Terry Gallagher’s earlier series “When Did You Get So Old?” You may be surprised by what Terry found.

Get people talking …

OurValues is designed to encourage civil dialogue on challenging subjects—and, this week, we hope readers will share this series with friends. You’re free to print out, repost or share these five columns on aging to get folks talking. Leave a comment below. Email someone. Come on, start talking …

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