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Growing old in 2020: how will it be different?

National Forum

Author: Neugarten, B. L.
Type: Journal Article
Year: 1981


Projections are made about the process of aging & the status of the aged in the year 2020, based on both negative & positive scenarios of U.S. society at that time. If economic, political, & social problems worsen, the elderly will be increasingly alienated & disadvantaged; if the problems are at least partially managed & interdependence between groups is improved, cooperation will reign. If the death rate remains the same, the number of old people will almost double by the year 2020, & if women continue to outlive men, the elderly population will be primarily female. Given greater educational levels & diminishing poverty levels, the health status of the aged will probably improve. The economic situation of the elderly may improve as the proportion of elderly in the labor force rises. However, the rising costs of health & social services may mitigate that improvement. Family units may become smaller, due to the changing birth rate. The elderly will have fewer, if any, adult children, with the result that generational ties will become more significant & valuable to family members. As social & health characteristics improve, society's concept of what "old" is changes. Those in their 60s & 70s in the year 2020 will be referred to as the "young-old." Their continued political & economic activity will put them at the forefront of social change, & their experience & expertise will be more valued. The twenty-first century may even be oriented toward the young-old, rather than toward youth.

Further Details

Pages: 28-30
Volume: 61
Issue: 3
Accession Number: 23.5.03
Keywords: North America, older, health improvement
Reads: 228