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As America ages, policy-makers’ preoccupations with the future costs of Medicare and Social Security grow.But neglected by this focus are critically important and broader societal issues such as intergenerational relations within society and the family, rising inequality and lack of opportunity, productivity in late life (work or volunteering), and human capital development (lifelong education and skills training).
Equally important, there is almost no acknowledgment of the substantial benefits and potential of an aging society.
The Mac Arthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society offers policy options to address these issues and enhance the transition to a cohesive, productive, secure, and equitable aging society.
We need an alternative to the archaic old-age dependency ratio, which simply equates old age with dependency.
Metrics that express the full array of benefits-to-costs relationships of a long-lived society, as well as alternatives for life-course trajectories, are also essential.
And Germany’s age structure has not caused ruin for its society or its economy.
Thus, one would think that the experiences of the Western European countries, which are like the United States in many ways, would provide a clear road map for the policies the United States needs to adopt for a successful transition to a productive and equitable aging society.
Failure to reach this goal will leave us with a society rife with intergenerational tensions – characterized by enormous gaps between the haves and the (increasingly less-educated) have-nots in quality of life and opportunity – and unable to provide needed goods and services for any of its members, especially a progressively older and more dependent population. We have time to put in place policies that will help strengthen the future workforce, increase productive engagement of older individuals, and enhance the capacity of families to support elders. Part of the failure to act lies with a set of archaic beliefs regarding the true nature of societal aging.
Many such policies may, at the same time, lessen the burden on Social Security. Given the advance warning decades ago that an age wave was coming, why has U. Stakeholders failed to realistically assess challenges and envision opportunities and squandered the time available to formulate appropriate public policy. Rather, the demographic changes that have taken place over the last century are permanent.
5) Policy-makers should focus on strategies that take advantage of all available talent in the population, employ social norms based on ability rather than chronological age, and transition from an emphasis on investment early in life to recognition that investments across the full life span can pay dividends.
These payoffs will be individual, intergenerational, and societal (with both crossover and spillover effects); and because they can be positive or negative, the outcomes must be monitored.